Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hot In Cleveland - A Route 6 City


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Cleveland, OH

Lobby of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Cleveland, OH

Let's get this out of the way.  First and foremost - THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME!! It just a few blocks off of Route 6, but I've been yearning to visit since it was built in 1989.   I spent over 2 hours at the lakefront glass building and could have spent another 3 hours immersed in the music of my youth.  There were guys (and women) with white pony tails, and kids towed by enthusiastic parents.  Even the teens and young adults were mesmerized.  Music blares as you make your way around exhibits.  How many yellow rhinestone-studded male-peacock outfits can one take??  Plenty.  Early radio, "architects of Rock and Roll" - like Dylan, Morrison (both Van and Jim); they're all here.  Downstairs, videos flicker, interviews roll endlessly.  It's a feast for the senses, and I was eating it up.  But what really captivated me was the movie looping in the Hall of Fame Induction theater; a montage of inductees from each year since 1989, I couldn't get over how YOUNG everyone looked (and how stoned, of course).  I sat there for over an hour and had tears in my eyes at times.  OK - with Zippo and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame out of the way, I'm not going to indulge my own passions here, but will hew as close to Route 6 as I can the rest of the way!

Cleveland, Ohio is a real Route 6 city.  Route 6 is actually a main street – cutting right through the city center as Superior Ave and leaving the city as Detroit then Clifton Ave.

Good Morning, Cleveland!
Cleveland was founded in 1776 by Western Reserve surveyor, Moses Cleaveland.  One hundred years later, in the midst of establishing a local newspaper, typesetters realized that they could not fit all of Cleaveland’s name on the masthead.  So they lopped off an A – forever changing history. 

East 4th St.
Cleveland, OH
Except for the blighted East side, Cleveland is a city on the cusp of resurgence – much like Baltimore or Providence, RI in the late 1990’s.  A number of burgeoning areas; the pedestrian-only E. 4th St., The Warehouse District and the Brewery District among others cater to young adults in their 20’s and 30’s, with great restaurants, nightclubs and affordable housing. Even the “Flats” which went through a boom then bust since the 1980’s is an area reemerging as a hot-spot. 

For sports fans, Cleveland’s stadiums stand right downtown – no need to head miles away and worry about loose-your-car parking lots.  Lexi Hotchkiss, my guide from Positively Cleveland pointed out the “Q” (Quicken Arena).  “That’s where LeBron James played, then left us in the dust.”

Cleveland sits on Lake Erie and if you find yourself facing the Lake, you are looking North. Browns Stadium, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a great Science Center are all “on the lake” (but just a few blocks from downtown).

Frank Gehry Design
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, OH
West Side Market: 100 years old, this large mulit-vendor food market is open only on Mon, Wed. Fri and Sat. when ice was delivered to town and stored there.  It’s in the Ohio City/Brewery District.

Cleveland is richly endowed with the arts, thanks to hometown boy, John D. Rockefeller.   University Circle is considered to be the most highly concentrated and wealthiest square mile of cultural institutions in the United States.  Park your car once, and you can visit the world-class Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Western Reserve Historical Society.  There is so much here, you'd need at least a week to explore it all.

If you only have a small amount of time, I’d choose a casual walk through the marble-cool and beautifully -curated Museum of Art, (FREE!) which runs the gamut of the greats from Midlevel tapestries and knight’s armor to Renoir, Monet and Picasso to O’Keefe, Warhol and Calder.  There’s something for everyone here.

If you have time, stop into the Glass Houses at the Botanical Gardens – the only desert and rainforest enclosed habitats of their kind.


Clifton Road is a Route 6 alternate, and just east of Lakewood, there are a couple of one-of-a-kind shops:

Big Fun, Cleveland

Big Fun, Cleveland
Big Fun Cleveland: Buys and sells both new and vintage toys.  If this place doesn’t have it, it doesn’t exists.  Conjur up any plaything from your past, and you’re sure to find it here.

Flower Child
Cleveland, OH

Flower Child: It’s Ebay with a storefront.  Twelve vendors rent space to sell eclectic items from the 1930’s – 1970’s, but most, as the name suggests, were sourced from  the groovy ‘60’s.  A large collection of vinyl records, plexiglass furniture, far out clothing, will keep you hunting for hours.


Little Italy
Cleveland, OH

Presti’s; Mayfield Rd. in Little Italy. Crowds stand in line for coffee and pastry at this popular baker/deli.  Try the carmel/chocolate/nut “Turtle” cookies and a java.  A perfect pick-you-up.

Cleveland, OH
Lola; E. 4th St. Owned by Iron Chef Michael Symon, first champion of Cleveland’s now thriving culinary scene, Lola is THE high-end place to dine and be seen.  Funky linear crystal chandeliers lend some candlepower to the dark, atmospheric room where a dressed up mid-age crowd (read: those who can afford this kind of fine dining) talk low over comfort dishes with a twist.  Beef Cheek Pirogues are not like your Polish Grandma used to make, but are tasty in their crème-fresh way.  The bone-in, crispy skin-on chicken breast sits on a mound of white beans and sausage, juicy and perfectly seasoned.  Worth the splurge.Lola on Urbanspoon
Goat Cheese Pizza
Luxe Lounge
Cleveland, OH

Luxe Kitchen and Lounge: owned by local celeb chef, Marlin Kaplan, Luxe is a funky, fun, happy place.  Used painters tarps serve as balloon curtains in the front window, a sparkly chandelier twinkles inside, and on weekend, a DJ spins records on the patio out back.  Menu items are interesting.  I tried the “veal-stuffed Deep Fried Italian Olives”($9) – which tasted like salty stuffed mushrooms, and a goat cheese balsamic pizza ($16), which was fine. (I’ll admit to being an East Coast pizza snob here; nothing can beat the crispy/chewy pies in my home state.  The bar is set very high for me).  But I’d definitely return for the Watermelon Salad ($8.50) ; chunks of this sweet summertime fruit, salty prosciutto, pine nuts, baby spinach and mint vinaigrette.  Wonderful.Luxe Kitchen and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Pho noodles
#1 Pho
Cleveland, OH
#1 Pho: Superior St. (Route 6) in Asiatown.  Iron Chef Michael Symon claims that Cleveland has the best pho in the country. Pho is a toothsome Vietnamese noodle soup and one of the best places to get it is at #1 Pho.  Try the Vermicelli Korean Meatball bowl, too, for another signature dish (if you can call it that in this very low-key place). The meatball is actually closer to a Turkish ground kebab – cigar shaped and wonderfully spiced.  Each overflowing bowl can feed at least 3 – 4 people, making the $8 per dish a very affordable and tasty lunch.  I’m a big fan of bubble-tea and so glad to see that # Pho features several varieties here.  Eat well on a budget!

Chocolate Bar
Cleveland, OH
The Chocolate Bar: In the Arcade/Hyatt Regency.  Good thing this place was within steps of the elevator up to my room.  The Chocolate Mint Martini and S’more’s Dessert nearly did me in for the night.  But it would have been a blissful way to go.  The Chocolate Bar is a big favorite of Girlfriend Birthdays and Bachelorette parties, as evidenced by the number of wedding tiaras and blinking 3-oh’s I witnessed within a few minutes.  This is a perfect dessert or final drinking spot. Sinful.

Sweet Moses: Sweet Moses, that’s a decadent ice-cream sundae!  SW makes its own hot fudge and thick creamy caramel sauce, and when those toppings meld with ice-cream and nuts, magic happens.  That’s all I’m saying.  If this place moves to my hometown, I’m done for.


Hyatt Arcade Atrium
Cleveland, OH
Hyatt Arcade;  If you like your plush accommodations with a lot of history, this is the place to stay in Cleveland.  Built in 1890, the gilded, wrought-iron Arcade was the first indoor shopping mall in the U.S.  Hyatt purchased the whole thing in 2001, and turned it into one of their flagship hotels.  The hotel commands the

spacious three-level shopping center – and it was so great to feel part of this city’s history – just by staying overnight here.  Rooms are contemporary – earth tones, smushy, down-filled duvets, and granite counter bathrooms, and some overlook the new “place to eat and party” – East 4th St.  I loved listening to the crowds outside (after being in the country for the last few nights).  It was the sound of Cleveland reinventing itself.

Indoor Pool
Cleveland Renaissance Hotel
Cleveland, OH
King Room
Cleveland Renaissance Hotel
Cleveland, OH

Cleveland Renaissance Hotel; your classic, antique-filled, marble bath, brocade bedded luxury hotel.  Nothing mod or deeply styled; it’s understated elegance.  Down duvets, TV armoires, and mild yellow and sea green color palette, it’s where many celebs stay when they come into down. One downside – there is no wifi in the rooms.  You’ll have to bring your laptop to the lobby. On the plus side, the Renaissance is connected to Terminal Tower – Cleveland’s transportation hub (and tallest building East of the Mississippi until the Empire State Building was constructed) .  If you want to visit the museums on University Circle, just walk next door to a direct eco-friendly battery-driven bus that will get you there in 20 minutes for just $2.25.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cambridge Springs, PA to Cleveland, OH on Route 6

Brian and Minne Sprague
Sprague Brew Works
Venango, PA
Kitsch, farmland, the Big City and a “beery nice” surprise;  today’s 115 mile drive was a varied experience.

Sprague Farm & Brew Works
Venango, PA
Leaving Cambridge Springs, I happened upon the "Brewmaster Award" winning Sprague Farm Brew Works (officially in the little hamlet of Venango, PA).  A wooden chain-sawed horse and colorful sign drew me in, although it was early morn.  A guy was standing in the driveway, invited me in to “see his pub,” and though I didn’t have much in the way of expectations, I took him up on it.  Now, I’m letting you all know that if you happen to hit this little gem-  owned by locals Brian and Minnie Sprague - when it’s open come in for a craft-on-tap.  There’s live music on weekends, a decent pub menu and the only bar in the world made from the original mast base of the 1812 Flagship Niagra, which sailed during our War of Independence. Brian is a “chain saw artist” and when the ship was being renovated he had the opportunity to take parts that were being replaced.  The Spragues work hard, but love their chosen independent business.  “I make, promote and drink beer for a living,” says Minnie.  “I LOVE my job!”
Market House, Meadville, PA

Next town; Meadville, which really needs better signage off of Route 6. I managed to find the Market House by asking people on the street.  It was a mini version of Philly’s big Market house, with a dozen or so purveyors of locally jarred foods, knickknacks, and “The Cookie Lady” who sells cakey, warm from the oven scones in a stately brick building.

As you leave Meadville on Route 6, keep an eye out on your right for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (or PENNDOT as it’s called here). Their complex is rimmed by a very funky, snap-shot-worthy roadsign mural.  Another artistic surprise in Northern PA!

Conneaut Lake Park
Conneaut, PA
Conneaut Lake, PA
Route 6 pairs with 322 in this very commercial part of the road, but by the time I got to Conneaut Lake, family establishments, marinas and tackle shops prevailed.  There’s an old family amusement park – Conneaut Lake Park - about 2 miles off 6, but looks as if it’s seen better days.  The park sits beside the Conneaut Lake Hotel, one of those faded glory resorts that looks as if it could use some sprucing up itself. The whole montage was too forlorn to be kitschy.

In Linesville, though, kitsch was in full force at the Pymatuning State Park Spillway where – I kid you not – “Ducks walk on the fishes backs.”  You take a left off of Route 6 for two miles, past the Fish Hatchery through gorgeous lakeside landscapes. The tourist area is unmistakable – right on the road (there’s a parking lot, and shop where bread for the fish and t-shirts are sold). I took video of these gaping carp congregating together for a hunk of hot-dog roll.  It was pretty gross, I have to say.

From Linesville, I left the land of recreation and entered the land of hard farm work.  PA crosses into Ohio at Pennline – but there was no Welcome to Ohio sign at all on Route 6. 

Terrain flattens out, silos and red barns appear at intervals, and I go through towns laid out a bit differently than they are in PA.  Small Ohio farm towns all seem to have a tiny central green around which Route 6 circles.  I passed through communities named Andover, Rome, Hartsgrove, Montville, and Hambden before arriving in the larger town of Chardon.  There’s a collection of shops and restaurants on the historic green there.  I stopped in to the Chardon Brew Works (“First brewery in Geauga County since prohibition,” according to the menu).  Pub food and beer were ok.  Not inspired (iceberg lettuce salad), but good enough to sustain me till I got to Cleveland.

Kids Hoes
Lake Metroparks Farmpark
Kirtland, OH
"People Mover"
Lake Metroparks Farmpark
Kirtland, OH

Diva Pony
Lake Metroparks Farmpark
Kirtland, OH

Sow With 9 Three-Week-Old Pigletts
Lake Metroparks Farmpark
Kirtland, OH
But one stop first – in Kirtland – and one I encourage every Route 6 road-tripper to see; Lake Metroparks Farmpark. ($6 adults, $4 kids)  You can’t miss it on the left side of Route 6 – with its big dark blue, white topped water tower.  Originally an Arabian Horse Farm on 235 acres, Farmpark portraysf life on a working farm (it IS a working farm, said the guy who escorted me around, Joe Pales); allowing visitors to touch, smell, feel all the animals and equipment involved in this way of life.  It’s low-tech and innovative at the same time.  A horse driven wagon is the “people mover” and gets visitors from one area to another. The Plant Science Center incorporates a greenhouse where kids can learn to plant by actually getting their hands dirty, a “touch” learning center with things to twirl and push, and an extensive hydroponic garden.  The Machinery Building houses antique farm machines that are used during the Fall Harvest Festival. There’s a Barnyard – home to a bunch of farmyard animals including large pigs who know the feed truck well.  “When the pigs see it, it sounds like a riot here,” Joe said. My personal favorite was the enclosed Arena and Well-Bred Shed where sheep are sheered and babies are born.  A sow had given birth to nine plucky piglets just a few weeks earlier, and I watched that huge worn out Mom with her brood and sympathized.  You can easily spend an afternoon here, so plan accordingly.

From Kirtland, it’s 25 miles to Cleveland – and once you pass the fine homes in the Euclid section, you arrive into town through Cleveland’s run-down East side.  Route 6 does not turn a blind eye to American blight.  In this case (and other’s back East) it thrusts right through it.  The Route pairs with Route 20, until Superior Ave.  There is no sign that Route 6 makes a right on Superior, but once you make the turn, there’s the 6West sign shining brightly on the next block.  I’m glad I did my homework and knew where to make that turn.  I traversed through boarded up buildings, check-cashing shops and package stores.  And then, suddenly, Cleveland downtown loomed.  I’ll let you know where to eat, what to see and where to stay in tomorrow’s post…..

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Smethport, PA to Cambridge Springs, PA on US Route 6

Part of a Zippo Lighter
American Flag,
Zippo Lighter Museum
Bradford, PA

It's 100 miles between Smethport and Cambridge Springs, PA, but I took a detour off Route 6 today -19 miles each way – just to indulge a curiosity.  Zippo maintains a great little museum in Bradford, PA and I just HAD to see it.  I picked a perfect rainy day, too.

Made out of Zippo Lighters
Zippo Lighter Museum
Bradford, PA
If you stay in Smethport, Ross will give you directions, otherwise, hook a right from Route 6 onto Route 219 between Smethport and Kane and drive 19 miles to Elm St. Exit.  Follow signs to Zippo Museum.  It's the home of the “Windproof Lighters; It works or we fix it free.”  There’s a terrific 9 minute orientation film that tells the story of George Blazedale who modified an Austrian design and named it after the “zipper,” which had recently been developed in Meadville PA (on Route 6!).  It became a must-have, fashion accessory, gift item and coveted by GI’s during WWII.  The museum creatively displays these collectibles – on one wall, there’s a mural-sized American Flag made completely from colorful Zippo lighters.

Curiosity sated, I drove 20 minutes back to Route 6, turned right and in a few minutes was in the center of Kane.  Yesterday in the late afternoon I had visited one of several wineries cropping up in this part of PA.  Flickerwood Wine Cellars, owned by former U.S. Forest Service guy Ron Zampona and his gregarious wife, Sue is definitely worth a stop. They are marketing geniuses,  and offer 35 varieties of vino, the best of which is the dessert and sweeter wines. One daughter creates the labels, and I have to say that they are some of the most inventive (not to mention intriguing) I’ve seen.    This month, they launch a blackberry/blueberry blend.  Sue wanted to call it Black and Blue, but by family vote, they settled on “Bruised” with a suggestive, cool label. 

Rocky Color Cones
Holgate Toy Company
Kane, PA

I’ve come to discover that the people out here in Northern PA take initiatives in many creatively resourceful ways.  Kane artist, dapper Denny Driscoll, is one of those resourceful people.  He is the town’s (and extended Route 6) unofficial historian.  Denny jokes that his wife tells him he’s “over sixed.”   I met him in Kane’s Railroad station – called The Depot – which Denny helped saved from demolition and now serves as a history and art museum housing artifacts “made in Kane.”  Many of these artifacts are toys from the Holgate Toy Company. Anyone who’s ever stacked rings on the “Rocky Color Cone” has owned or played with a Holgate toy.  Norman Rockwell’s brother, Jarvis, designed these iconic toys for Holgate from 1930 until 1965.  Denny also pointed out a photo of the son of the town’s namesake, Dr. Evan O’Neill Kane, performing hernia surgery on himself in 1932 to prove the effectiveness of local anesthesia.  “Many people from Kane were explorers.  Dr. Kane applied that spirit of exploration in the medical arena,” Denny said.
Texas Hots Hot Dog
Kane, PA

Before leaving Kane, Denny took me to the dive-y Texas Hots for their signature hot dog; smothered in spicy baked beans.  Many people come to Kane just for these little hots – delish.

Next it was on to the relatively large city of Warren, marked by a huge refinery on its Eastern end.  Warren is home to Blair Co. – one of if not the largest catalog companies in the world.  Started by another driven, industrious Pennsylvanian, John Blair, in 1910, the leisure-wear company has grown into a billion dollar operation.  Blair Catalog developer, Jim McQuiston, put together a Blair Museum of History inside the retail store in Warren, and invited me to see it.  With the founder’s connection to FDR and his progressive thinking, I told McQuiston I believe there should be a book and/or a History Channel project about John Blair in the works.   I took a short video; enjoy.

A few months ago, Sabrina Miller from Columbus, PA contacted me by email and asked if I could stop by on my way West.  She and her husband consider themselves “Professional Rednecks” and wanted to meet me.  A couple of years ago, they were married on CMT’s My Big Redneck Wedding and 10 years ago founded what is now considered to be a premier international Monster Truck Competition, the Cornfield 500 – held every Labor Day weekend on their property.  My interview with Sabrina and Blair:

Cambridge Springs was built around the same formula as Saratoga Springs and all the other hot and mineral springs towns in the 1800’s.  Back story; man pokes around for oil, finds mineral water. Once this elixir was discovered, claims spread (probably through clever hawkers) that the drink was healing and restorative. Tourists soon followed, and then just as abruptly left when the FDA declared that these springs didn’t cure anyone of anything.
Riverside Inn
Cambridge Springs, PA

Dinner Theater at Riverside Inn
Cambridge Springs, PA
I stayed overnight at the 126 year-old Riverside Inn – a classic old resort; a real throwback.  The dining room serves theme buffets, waiters in the pub actually engage in conversation with the locals who hang out there (and the occasional CT gal).  No TV’s in the rooms, which are bare bones, clean and pink-flower sweet.  Small bathroom,  linoleum floors.  But people come back time and time again for a singular old-timey experience and to see the dinner theater, which is as funny and bawdy as it gets.  Surprisingly, two of the actors now own the place.  I had the pure pleasure of seeing the “Queen Roast” – saying goodbye to the woman who has played the Queen in the Medieval Knights show every Fall for years.  She - Brenda Evans - is also part owner. Her partner, Ken Falkenhagen, was formerly the theater manager and fell into inn ownership by virtue of "being there."  The former owners didn't want to sell their beloved Riverside into the hands of Assisted Living developers, and they saw in Ken a man who could continue the tradition.  "It's very gratifying to come to a place you love every day and know that it's continuing," he said. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wellsboro, PA to Smethport, PA on US Route 6

Today was short in miles, long in connections.  A foggy morning with “severe weather” threatening, I was happy to have only 67 miles to drive today, but I needn’t have worried.  Like all weather these days, forecasts change by the minute.  It turned out to be very pleasant.

PA Grand Canyon
A few miles outside of Wellsboro, I turned left off of Route 6 on a 5 mile detour (10 mile roundtrip) to see Pennsylvania’s version of the Grand Canyon.  Not as vast as its western counterpart, and far greener, it was certainly worth the extra 20 minutes for the viewing experience.

Back on 6, I started to see river outfitters, mom and pop motels, “gem mining” tomahawk-selling gift shops…. vacationland services for families recreating in the PA National Forrest – the “PA Wilds.”  I also started noticing the “Welcome Gas Workers” signs signaling a sea change in those who are coming here.

Brick House Cafe
Galeton, PA
Passing through little towns like Ansonia, Rexford, Gaines I stopped at The Brick House Café in Galeton (the dead Center of PA 6) owned by gregarious Cindy Pflug  and her husband who bought the place 4 years ago.  They were “looking for something on 6.”  Tired of city life and the rat race, Cindy now says that she “lives on vacation. All these people come here to get away from it all, then have to go back.  We get to stay.” I met with Terri Dennison, Director of the PA Route 6 Tourist Association (we’d been emailing for months), and she, like many PA people I’ve been meeting, is full of ideas to promote and improve her home state, particularly this “largely forgotten area North of I80.” For the past day and a half, I’d driven through rolling, emerald hills- very much like those of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Each turn offered stunning views, and every once in awhile a slice of small town life. In fact, the Route 6 Tourist Bureau impels state residents to stay here rather than spend money elsewhere.  “We’re trying to develop this as PA’s version of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  It’s just as beautiful and historic,” Terri Dennison told me.

This part of PA is rich in natural resources: lumber, coal and gas have made many a man a millionaire here since the 1800’s.

Lumber Museum
Sweden Valley, PA
Nothing tells the local timber story better than the PA Lumber Museum in Sweden Valley.  It’s worth stopping in  to get an overview of the devastation wrought by logging companies that clear-cut their way through the dense forest here in the mid 1800’s until nothing was left.  It was virtually a wasteland.  Enter Roosevelt’s New Deal and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), which replanted and sustainably managed PA forests.  The Museum includes a series of weathered buildings housing lumbering-related steam engines, saw-mill,  mess-hall and all services related to life in a logging/lumber camp.

Olga's Gallery and Bistro,
Coudersport, PA
I had one stop to make in the next town of Coudersport – Olga’s Gallery and Bistro owned by the young John and Olga Snyder. It is one of those business that can change the face of a town and draw a younger, more creative and artsy element.  I was so impressed, I made a video.

Before getting to my final destination of the day, I
stopped at the Kinzua (pronounce kinzoo) Bridge - about 4 miles off of Route 6 outside of Smethport.  It took my breath away.  Octave Chinute (who later went on to work with the Wright Brothers) engineered the bridge in 1882 with no cross-braces.  It was aerodynamically designed and at 300 feet off the Valley Floor was the highest bridge on the profitable New York - Erie Railroad line.  In 2003, a tornado tore it apart.  Later this year, a Skywalk is slated to open that will allow visitors to stare into the valley from what's left of the bridge - at no charge.

When I rolled into Smethport, I knew I wasn’t in Mom and Pop land anymore.  This town once had serious money and the evidence lined Main Street (Route 6).  Mansion after stately mansion stood proudly behind beautiful landscaping.  It’s as if I’d wandered into downtown Greenwich, CT.

Smethport, PA
Home of Wooly Willy

Fortunately for me, I had a chance to stay in one of these grand homes at the Mansion District Inn, owned by Smethport’s Mayor (and all around Renaissance Man), Ross Porter and his lovely wife Jovanna. Ross is leading the charge to incorporate less-expensive and locally sourced Compressed Natural Gas into our county's gas stations to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. When I first entered their B&B I was overwhelmed; statues, taxidermy’d animal heads, overstuffed seating, Tiffany-style lamps, and much much more jam-packed several common parlors.  For a minute, I felt claustrophobic.  But as I sat there, the rooms gelled into an interesting, whimsical and “of a certain time” Queen Anne meets Arts and Crafts tableau. I expected Teddy Roosevelt to stroll through the front door any minute.  In the 1800’s Henry Hamlin was the chief benefactor of Smethport.  He was purported to be the wealthiest private banker in the U.S. at the time – having made his fortune in oil, lumber and gas. This house was a wedding gift to his daughter.  “We want to indulge guests in the Smethport opulence of the Victorian era,” Ross explained. The 6 guest rooms upstairs are phenomenal; put together with gleanings from the couple’s world travels.  There’s a carved “1850 Chinese Wedding Bed” that would spice up a romantic weekend, and the new Freeman Suite ($119 night) has a slate rain shower big enough to dance in. Décor is clever and bedding luxurious, and I didn’t even get to Jovanna’s terrific breakfast; made to order with herbs and vegetables fresh from her garden. She serves her Country-Fair-winning Belgian Chocolate Biscotti (an old Sicilian family recipe) along with a three course gourmet morning meal.  Before you leave, Ross and Jovanna make sure you take home a Woolly Willy – the iconic kid’s toy made right here in Smethport.


West Line Inn
West Line, PA
For a real local experience, head off 6 – and it feels as if it’s WAY off 6 – to West Line Inn.  Once a wood chemical company, it was turned into an Inn and Restaurant, run by Judy and John Pomeroy – a French trained chef.  It is truly in the middle of nowhere; you drive 6 miles up Route 219, then take a left onto West Line Rd. – dark and long – for three miles, but feels like 30.  It is definitely worth it for the cozy warren of dining rooms, a popular bar and, yep, the food.  My “Mint Julep Chicken” sounded like it could go wrong, but was actually very good. I’m told steak and seafood dishes are, too. Definitely a find.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Hawley, PA to Wellsboro, PA on Route 6

Hawley, PA to Wellsboro, PA
145 Miles

Finally – a sunny day! And what a 145 mile drive; farming and fracking, fracking and farming. Plus one museum stop that surprised me. Some of the most bucolic territory so far on Route 6 punctuated by filthy, dirty fracking trucks dragging mud all over the road, kicking up dust.

Bathroom views. Ledges Inn
Hawley, PA
I began this morning with a special “hard-hat” tour of the soon-to-be opened Ledges; a luxury inn at the site of an old glass factory in Hawley,  set right on a cascading waterfall and owned by the same people who own Settler’s Inn.  I will return to stay there – if only to take a bath while watching the waterfall from my bathroom window.

Continuing West on Route 6, I stopped briefly at Dorflinger Glass in White Mills.  This  one-room museum would be a must-see for those who collect high quality cut and etched glass pieces, but for me, the fun was getting there.  It’s a ¾ mile jog to the right off 6, on what felt like a road graded 90 degrees straight up.  I didn’t think my car had it in it.  The museum and glass shop is located within a beautiful nature preserve, so even if glass isn’t your thing, the drive to it might be of interest.

Wind Turbines
Waymart, PA
Route 6 runs parallel to the main shopping district in Honesdale, which has some beautiful grey stone churches and galleries but is otherwise a town in transition.  It is known for two things, however.  First of all,  “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” was supposedly written about Honesdale.  And secondly, according to the Railroad Museum of PA’s website, “August 8, 1829, The Stourbridge Lion, imported from England, was experimentally operated by Horatio Allen on the Delaware & Hudson Canal Company's railroad at Honesdale, Pa. It was the first steam engine to run on commercial railroad tracks in the United States.”

By the time I got to Waymart, I begin to see Wind Turbines high up on the mountains – a very cool sight.  At this point, road grades were getting steeper and truck traffic was increasing.  Slow trucks mucked everyone up, causing a near standstill on inclines.  (Read: patience is key)

I decided to take Business Route 6 through Carbondale, which bypassed Scranton.  Scranton can be it’s own full blog post with a host of great attractions, and if you decide to spend a couple of days there; stay in the unique Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel.

1.     Steamtown National Historic Site; a “can’t miss” for train fans.  It’s got massive, apartment-sized steam engines, turntables that rotated those engines at the end of the line, and opportunities to ride. It’s an all-day stop in itself.
3.     PA Anthracite Heritage Museum; all about the coal that burns clean.
4.     Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour; go down into the mine with a former miner to learn all about that tough life.
5.    Houdini Museum; a quirky paean to the Master Magician himself.

The next town, Carbondale, was the terminus for the first Honesdale gravity railroad, and I’d read that the town had obtained a Historic Caboose, but I looked for the caboose and I looked for the Pioneer Museum and there were no signs (on Route 6 at least) showing me the way.  So it was off to Clark’s Summit and then, in Factoryville, the “Christy Mathewson Highway, ‘Big Six’” as it is known here, for hometown hero, Hall of famer Mathewson.

The “Endless Mountains Visitor’s Bureau is tucked away in Tuhkannock (in the middle of a little strip shopping center), but I stopped in to see an email contact and said hello to the staff there.  It’s a busy place in season – “Endless Mountains” is no hype.  The mountain range here does seems endless; green and rolling it’s quite a beautiful ride.  But by Wyalusing there was a change in the air.  Distinctive drilling trucks and natural gas equipment began joining me in greater numbers on the road.  The newly-tapped natural-gas-rich Marcellus Shale is right beneath my feet here.

Wyalusing Hotel, PA
I stopped for lunch at the big yellow Wyalusing Hotel and met a colorful couple of couples out for a bite. They cracked jokes and I learned a few things about local sites over my marinated grilled chicken sandwich ($5.99).  They were great entertainment!

Susquehanna River Overlook
Wyalusing, PA

Weigh Station Restaurant
Towanda, PA
Rose Diner
Towanda, PA


Just out of town, I pulled over at a Susquehanna River Overlook to witness where French Royals settled during their revolution in 1793.  They had hoped to whisk Marie Antoinette to safety here, but no such luck for the cake-obsessed gal.  A sign marks this part of Route 6 as a “High DUI Crash Area,” warning motorists to slow down.  It’s tough to go too fast, though, when drilling trucks block your way and you’re being assaulted by Auto Zones, Dollar Generals, Bigger Box Stores and lots of car dealerships.  Commerce reigned as I pulled into the little railroad, artsy town of Towanda. An old guy sat outside the very photogenic Rose Diner.  What a photo op.  I walked to the old Train Station turned “organic restaurant” –The Weigh Station Cafe – and a PA Artisan shop.  It was bustling, just as it must have been when folks waited for their train to come in.

Out of Towanda, through Luthers Mills the infiltration of Natural Gas drillers could not be ignored.  Big Daddy trucks tracked just churned earth onto the roads, and dust from dirt kicked up by truck tires choked the air. I caught some of this on my Route 6 snippet video today. There is no denying that the Fracking companies have imposed a certain order in this neck of the woods.

I was kind of prepared for the adverse affects of these drilling companies, but I was totally unprepared for the joy of rummaging through the Bradford County Museum and Historical Village in Troy.  About ½ mile off Route 6 (on 14), I almost didn’t head down the ramp to the County Fairgrounds after reading that the museum was only open Thurs – Sat. 10am-4pm.  But I saw the door of the massive barnlike structure was open, so naturally I went in.

Bradford County Historical Museum
aka Troy Farm Museum
Troy, PA

Sheep Treadmill/Butter Churner
Troy Farm Museum

Display of Troy Hotel Dining Room
Troy Farm Museum
Troy, PA

Barber Shop
On "Heritage Days" Local Barbers offer haircuts
Troy Farm Museum
Troy, PA

"Henhouse" Church
Troy Farm Museum
Troy, PA
Johann Dickerson with "Board of Education"
Troy Farm Museum
Troy, PA

Tea for More than Two
Tea Party Sets at Troy Farm Museum
Troy, PA
I’d expected to take a few shots of the jam-packed warehouse full of old stuff, say my goodbye’s and leave, but when Johann Dickerson began her spiel, I was transfixed.  This low-tech place preserves a certain former lifestyle in a very interactive way.  “Pick up that iron,” Dickerson said. It was at least 10 lbs of real iron.  “Can you imagine having to use that daily to press your long skirts?  It must have taken all morning.” Every one of the thousands of items was worthy of this kind of comment.  Johann showed me a wooden goat or sheep treadmill used to churn butter (as well as barrel and swing churns), devices to turn flax into linen, and a piece of wooden water pipe excavated from beneath the town.  The “Village” incorporates a maple sugaring house, a barber shop and doctor’s office, a one-room schoolhouse (where Dickerson posed with the “Board of Education”), a massive carriage house, and a tiny Church created in 1937 out of a chicken house by a 12 year old preacher who was fed up with the “highfalutin” ministers in the area.  The “Henhouse” Church became so famous, it earned a feature in the April 17, 1939 issue of Life Magazine.  The Mitchell House on property was PACKED with 1800’s clothing, and cabinets full of dainty china tea sets (used for tea parties).  The house was on the Underground Railroad and Dickerson showed me where slaves were hidden beneath floorboards.  She also explained symbols used on quilts (thrown over the front porch for “airing”) to indicate how the slaves were to be moved (ie – a circle meant they’d move out by wagon).  There was so much more, I was sad it was the end of the day.  This place should be swarming with visitors, but besides the hundreds of school groups that come on field trips, hardly anyone does.  “I think it’s because we call ourselves a ‘Farm Museum’ and people think it’s boring,” said Dickerson. It is anything but.
Settlement House Fine Arts
Sylvania, PA

Settlement House Fine Arts
Syvania, PA

One last stop in Sylvania at Connie Stickler’s PA Artisan Shop, Settlement House.  It’s right on 6 on the far side of “town” – and quite the find for craft hounds like me.  In a gorgeous contemporary timber-frame home (her husband’s design and business), there are three floors of fine arts, jewelry and Connie’s own wonderful animal paintings. Connie is a huge supporter of local artists and a delightful woman, and her shop is the perfect place to find gifts at a much lower price than in the city
Through Mansfield home of the State University, known for Music Department, I finally made it to

Penn Wells Hotel
Wellsboro, PA
Penn Wells Hotel Lobby
Wellsboro, PA
Wellsboro and the historic Penn Wells Hotel.  When I say “historic” I mean it in every sense.  The rooms are clean, the bed comfortable (though no plump pillowtops here), and the bathroom sinks have hot and cold faucets (how do those work, anyway?).  Radiator heat and water pipes overhead for the sprinkler system. It's as if nothing has changed since the place was "remodeled" in 1926. But despite the “rustic” accoutrements, it’s a good night sleep until 5am when the street sweeping trucks starts doing its thing in the morning.  I’m an early riser, so it was all right by me.  But Wellsboro takes its charming “stuck-in 40’s” identity very seriously, (which includes the cleanliness of its streets) and this hotel’s location just can’t be beat. It is the perfect place to stay if you want to walk outside, and down the block to eat at the iconic Wellsboro Diner. 

Wellsboro, PA Downtown
Linda and Tom Barnicott

I had dinner, however at Timeless Destinations, where I met Route 6 artist Linda Barnicott, with her husband, Tom.  Good food, great conversaton.  I’m looking forward to all the artwork generated by her own Route 6 drive.