Having lived in Pennsylvania nearly my entire life, I must confess, I have tended to set my eyes on the south when it comes to travel. However, Pennsylvania has some wonderful roads that are rich with history and scenery; Rt 30 between Chambersburg and Ligonier, and Rt 6 are two of my favorites. On a recent trip to pick up furniture from a family member near Binghamton, NY, I chose, as you would probably expect, to avoid the Interstate system. As usual, it was the right choice!
I planned this trip on Furkot.com, with the only criteria being I wanted to avoid Interstates as much as possible, and I wanted to go through Towanda, PA (a trip years ago left me wanting to see it again). Of course, heading due north out of the Harrisburg area is going to involve Rt 15 in some way. Rt 15 is, in most places, similar to Interstate but there is less traffic, smaller towns, and, along most of it, a view of the Susquehanna River
The trip would have us on a 60 mile stretch of Rt 220 between Muncy and Towanda, (where we would also have a chance to hop on Rt 6 for a bit). In Muncy we hopped on to Rt 220 and began our back road journey north. PA Rt 220 is a picturesque drive through some of the best parts of Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains region. The road is excellent, a wide, smooth two-lane with many sweeping turns; taking you through small towns and villages, and occasional farm lands. Rt 220 also treats your to wonderful views across the top of the mountain range at various points (which, in fact, is actually a dissected plateau rather than mountains — hence the reason they’re all roughly the same height). I repeatedly found myself telling Lynda, were it not for the snows they get in the region, I could seem myself living there — it is definitely my kind of country. Both Towanda and Muncy have great history and are towns worth investigating if you have the time.
We stopped in Towanda for lunch at the Red Rose Diner. We were planning to go to another restaurant I had read about online, but I remembered, at some point in my research of old diners over the years, seeing photos of the Red Rose. It was open and we had to check it out!
Some might call the Red Rose Diner a dive; she has clearly seen better days and is not the kind of place you’re going to find a lot of polished chrome fixtures and glistening surfaces. However, a large part of why one stops at a place like the Red Rose Diner is for a unique experience. We were quite happy to find the food we ordered was both filling and quite good. My wife, Lynda, ordered the BLT sandwich and I ordered the Reuben. Both came with french fries that were fresh-cut, right before our eyes. The Red Rose Diner is a real-deal, old-fashioned diner car experience! (NOTE: There is some question regarding whether the Red Rose will be remaining open as the owner is retiring. Be sure to research online if you plan to go here).
In addition to a main street with many small shops, an old movie theater and, at the north end, some amazing old houses, Towanda also has a historic railroad station and a nice riverside park. Definitely check out Towanda if you have an hour or two to spare.
An article about the Red Rose Diner can be found here.