Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pottsville, PA Area

As I said in the last post we ended up in Pottsville for an extended stay in hopes of getting the RV repaired. (I will do a post on this when we finally get the repair done correctly.) The place doing the work only had a 15 amp electric hook up, meaning we would not be able to run the AC. Since it was nearly 100 we opted to stay at the Ramada Inn for the weekend, so we had some time to explore the area. Who knew we could find so many things to do near Pottsville to keep us busy.   
We did find some good places to eat within walking distance of the hotel. The first was the Wheel, where the specialty is gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. As you can tell by the smile Nanc loved hers. Another place was the Crimson House, a very good tapas restaurant run by the same people.
Just down the road in Shartlesville is Roadside America, a miniature world of handcrafted buildings and toy trains. We saw a story about this place on Sunday Morning a couple months ago that said the attraction is having a hard time making ends meet and the family is looking to sell. A miniature town with every detail of life in the early 1900's.
 Roadside America was built by Laurance Gieringer who started building models when he was five years old. The huge circus with a small airport. Several of the displays have buttons to push to activate some of the people.
The O-gauge model railway is a big part of this little world. Some of the trains are parked in the rail yard while others are always running. I had an O-gauge Lionel as a kid so this was a real step back in time for me.
This area shows life in the 1800's with horse drawn wagons. In the 1930's the display, which was in Mr. Gieringer's home, became more and more popular. 
The coal industry was very big in this part of Pennsylvania so a tipple where the rail cars would be loaded is a big part of the exhibit. There is a cutaway look down into a deep mine.
A look at the rural life in this hilly part of the state. In 1940 he began to build a warehouse size building for his miniature villages and trains. It was opened to the public in 1953 and has continued to this day.
We walked around a couple times to see as much as possible. This is one of those places you could visit many times and find something new every time even though it has not changed since 1963 when Mr. Gieringer died.
There is even an Alpine mountain complete with a waterfalls, an ice rink, ski slopes and a tram running up the steep hill. If you have any interest in roadside oddities you need to add Roadside America to your to do list. The detail is quite amazing and who knows how much longer it will be open.
We stopped at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary located between Hamburg and Pottsville. The sanctuary is 2,600 acres of land that is part of 13,000 acres of public and private protected land. It is located on Hawk Mountain in the Appalachians on a major route for 16 different raptors migrating from Canada to the southern US and even South America.    
It was very hot so we did not hike. The visitors center has interesting displays on the different birds. The best time to see birds is in the fall and to a lesser extent the spring. The mission of the sanctuary is to conserve birds of prey worldwide. In the early 1900's the Pennsylvania Game Commission paid a $5.00 bounty for every raptor that was shot.  
To reinforce the importance of their mission they have this exhibit about the Passenger Pigeons. These birds were once the most plentiful and the most common bird in the US and were hunted into extinction by the beginning of the 1900's. The last one died in a zoo in 1914. Hawk Mountain is a neat place that we will have to return to in the fall sometime to see the migrating raptors.
When we put out the word that we were in Pottsville for the weekend we got a message from Diane and Andy. They are RVers we met at Betty's RV Park and got together with at Quartzite. Turns out they live in the area, so we got together at another good, local restaurant, Roma Pizza. After dinner they invited us to their place. It was a fun time getting caught up with all our travels since we last saw them.
Another Pennsylvania place I have always been interested in but never been to is Centralia. This was a small mining town with a population of nearly 2,500 people the first half of the 1900's. In 1962 a fire was started while burning trash at a strip mine. The fire ignited a seam of coal and has defied all efforts to extinguish it. It has burned to a depth of 300 feet and is over eight miles long. It is expected to burn for another 200 plus years. This church once overlooked the town.  
By 1980 the population was down to 1,000 as many people were affected by the fire and gasses. In 1992 the state used eminent domain and condemned all the property. Today there are seven people living there. As part of their agreement with the state, they can stay until they die. This was once a street lined with homes and businesses.   
While we did not see or smell any burning coal, we did see this new happening in Centralia, graffitied streets. There are sidewalks, driveways and even a few places were you can tell people had landscaped lots, but there are only three houses still occupied.   
This is the main street in nearby Ashland to give you an idea of what Centralia would have looked like in its hay day. Growing up in an old coal town with the pollution and environmental messes the companies left behind sure shaped my view of the need for strong environmental laws.
You can tell we were running out of things to do when I let Nanc drag me to the Hope Hill Lavender Farm. Nanc sure liked that big chair. 
They had a little bit of everything lavender, but it is not really a guy kind of place.

Since the issue we have been having with the rig has not been resolved, we changed our plans to travel to Connecticut and found a place to stay along the Delaware River in Eastern PA over the Fourth of July. We are now at the KOA north of New York City for a week as part of our excursion with the Escapees to explore the Hudson Valley and visit NYC. From here we are heading to WashPA for three months.

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