Our 2017 Road Trip, Part 39: Pennsylvania Piques

Madonna of the Trail!

She’s a familiar face to longtime MCC readers…

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. For 2017 our ultimate destination of choice was the city of Baltimore, Maryland. You might remember it from such TV shows as Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire, not exactly the most enticing showcases to lure in prospective tourists. Though folks who know me best know I’m one of those guys who won’t shut up about The Wire, a Baltimore walkabout was Anne’s idea. Setting aside my fandom, as a major history buff she was first to remind skeptics who made worried faces at us for this plan that Maryland was one of the original thirteen American colonies and, urban decay notwithstanding, remains packed with notable history and architecture from ye olde Founding Father times. In the course of our research we were surprised to discover Baltimore also has an entire designated tourist-trap section covered with things to do. And if we just so happened to run across former filming locations without getting shot, happy bonus…

Day Six was a long haul through the southern half of Pennsylvania, a six-hour drive on country highways if you avoid the expenses of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We drove nearly the entire length of the Turnpike on our 2010 road trip to Philadelphia and on our unforgettable visit to Manhattan in 2011. Between those two vacations, we exhausted several pounds of spare change on tolls in the process. Avoiding the tolls wasn’t our primary objective here, merely a happy benefit. Everything on our to-do list this time was south of the interstate. Fortunately our route through the Allegheny Mountains and/or the Appalachian Plateau was nonstop scenery and points of interest.

The morning was an uneventful combination of one last uninspired hotel breakfast and our exit from Baltimore. Thankfully the parking garage down the street had kept our rental car intact for our fond farewell.

Baltimore out!

Signpost along I-83. Baltimore out.

Baltimore is a little over an hour from Gettysburg Military National Park, a mostly uneventful drive if you don’t mind rush hour traffic. I do, but when it’s that time, there’s nothing to be done except be patient and trust you’ll get where you’re going someday.

Tree Creep!

Random mystery tree along the way, apparently with hair like cotton candy? For pizzazz?

The search for all those the dozens of Gettysburg markers and monuments gives tourists an excuse to drive all around Gettysburg, seeing the preserved history along its streets and, if you should feel so inclined, dropping a few dimes at the local establishments.

Gettysburg houses!

Some neighborhoods look positively antique to us outsiders. To the folks who dwell there, it’s just home.

Once we’d had our fill of monument hunting, it was well past lunchtime. We chose a random local diner among a few Google Maps red-dot suggestions laid before us, disregarding any corporate chain results for now. Gettysburg isn’t exactly a foodie paradise, but we didn’t need it to be.

Dunlap's Restaurant!

The winner: Dunlap’s Restaurant, bakery and home cooking since 1999. Best of all, not crowded mid-afternoon.

Crab Cake Sandwich!

Anne sought the comfort of a basic BLT. As a nod to where we’d been, I went with their crab cake sandwich. This faint shout-out to Baltimore was my final east-coast seafood meal of the trip.

painted pump!

For fans of random art, a painted gas pump next to Dunlap’s parking lot.

Cannon duo!

Down the street, this duo manning a cannon were not official Gettysburg statues, merely themed display items.

From Dunlap’s it was a short hop to Mister Ed’s Elephant Museum. The next leg, however, was a three-hour broad jump across the length of Pennsylvania to our next high-priority attraction. Our late departure from Gettysburg meant cutting another stop off the itinerary, a Presidential birthplace too far out of our way to swing by. I promised Anne we’d return to Philadelphia someday, so maybe it’ll make the cut next time we’re in the neighborhood.

Chambersburg roundabout!

The next major town on our route was Chambersburg. We didn’t stop, but the roundabout was like a sort of welcome wagon.

Southern Pennsylvania is all hills and mountains, highways ramping and curving and swooping at precarious angles requiring slower speed limits and still more patience. Tunnels through mountains provide brief breaks from all the inclines. We joined the PA Turnpike for a span to hasten our arrival and make up for spent time.

Allegheny Mountain Tunnel!

The westbound entrance to the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel, carrying travelers underneath millions of tons of solid rock since 1939.

yellow tunnel!

It’s weird, but tunnels are fun to me. Driving through the lengthier ones always reminds me of popcorn flicks. Speed; Live Free or Die Hard; The Bourne Supremacy; I, Robot; The Running Man

roadside dome!

Mountainside view from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, plus bonus man-made scenery.

Our next destination was the town of Beallsville, several miles south of the Turnpike. Near a country club and some apartment complexes stands a woman we’ve seen before: the Madonna of the Trail. Between 1928 and 1929 the Daughters of the American Revolution arranged for twelve identical statues to be placed along US 40, a.k.a. the National Road, from California to Bethesda, Maryland, in honor of the spirit of the pioneer woman and her contributions to frontier expansionism. Previously on MCC we’ve brought you pics of Madonnas of the Trail in Vandalia, IL; Richmond, IN; Springfield, OH; faraway Lamar, CO; and, near the beginning of this year’s very own road trip, Wheeling, WV, and Bethesda, MD. Beallsville’s own would be our seventh sighting of the twelve, our third in 2017 alone.

Madonna of the Trail!

Beallsville does a nice job with her flower arrangements.

We were now pushing into suppertime and beyond. Lunch had been so late that we decided to press onward and check our appetites till we were closer to our next hotel. That meant heading north once again and enduring several miles of construction around the Turnpike. In 2010 that same Turnpike section was likewise plagued by orange cones, barricades, irksome speed limit reductions, and closed lanes for dozens of miles in both directions. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence on our part that 2010 and 2017 looked identical in that stretch, or if this is the same project dragged out for seven years or more without any sense of real objectives.

After a few miles we escaped the Tunrpike and headed up I-76 toward our endpoint for the day, a return visit to one of our save points from 2010 — the city of Pittsburgh.

river ferry!

More rugged backdrops and a river ferry on the way to the Steel City.

Fort Pitt Tunnel!

…and one more tunnel for good luck.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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