Monday, October 24, 2016

Where's Norton?

Melvin and I are mostly a pair but other folks tour with us from time to time. I welcome the company of any one of them again in the future. That said, not every itinerary suits every companion.

We arrived at a destination halfway through our abbreviated trip to Pennsylvania that made me think of a friend who has traveled with us twice. I turned to Melvin and asked, "Where's Norton?"

Where's Norton? At Exit 12, in ¾ of a mile.

Melvin and I were in Centralia, Pennsylvania—which sits atop an underground coal fire, burning since at least 1962—which Norton visited with a sister. This Norton told me when we saw a play about the town and its travails, a low-budget precursor to immersive theater.

heat fissured, abandoned and graffitied; Pennsylvania 61, Centralia

By that point on the trip, Melvin and I had already been to Roadside America, a 6,000 square foot miniature village that Norton and I visited three years earlier—

moving day in Shartlesville

—and Concrete City, worker housing built in 1911, abandoned after just 13 years, and still standing almost a century after a mining company could not blow it up.

two of 22 duplex apartments; Concrete City, Nanticoke

This was an itinerary that Norton would have enjoyed. By comparison, Watson would have hated Centralia and Concrete City. I texted her, "This trip has had it all! Mayflies, temps in the 90s, abandoned structures in the woods. Why aren't you here?"

There were other destinations that would have held varying appeal to different people, including even Melvin and me.

Reading Pagoda

Hadany Arch; Lycoming Mall, Muncy

Komodo Dragon, Clyde Peeling's Reptiland; Allenwood

Coplay Cement Company kilns, under renovation; Coplay

Hoover Mason Trestle, part of the shuttered Bethlehem Steel plant

Melvin and I also saw three baseball games, always the organizing structure of the trips. Anthony Vasquez pitched a complete game for Reading on Sunday, July 24, his last start there before being promoted. The Fighin Phils batted around twice (not in the same inning) on their way to a 10-4 victory over the Hartford Yard Goats.

The Williamsport Crosscutters game the next night was rained out. That was also the case for the Harrisburg Senators, so we saw a doubleheader in the state capital on Tuesday. Roeman Fields hit a solo shot in the sixth inning to give the visiting New Hampshire Fisher Cats the 1-0 win in the first game. Stephen Perez hit the walk-off jack in the second game, giving the Senators a 1-0 victory of their own.

shortstop Stephen Perez gets a Gatorade shower, Harrisburg

Wednesday's matinee between the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Syracuse Chiefs, which the home team won 6-4, felt long and drawn out under an intense sun. Melvin noted the large number of players once expected to compete at a higher level than Triple-A.

Except for grumbling about the weather, neither Melvin nor I nor any of our traveling companions complain about the games. These are, after all, the baseball byways and if you don't want to watch several games in short succession, you bought the wrong ticket. As I have already written, however, not everyone shares the same interest in the destinations in-between.

Where we dine has become more contentious, with even Melvin and me questioning which online sources best match our tastes. We very much liked Sofrito in Reading once we literally got past the unwelcoming entrance. More varied than usual bar food, a congenial local crowd and local memorabilia on the walls. By the time we were done, it was dark enough to drive up Mt. Penn to the Pagoda.

Haag's Hotel, Shartlesville

The next morning at Haag's Hotel, we shared shredded chicken over a Belgian waffle and the classic cream chipped beef over toast. The Dutch Colonial would have looked at home at Roadside America, where we went next before continuing on to Concrete City.

I had wanted to visit Bullfrog Brewery when I saw the Crosscutters in 2008 and got my chance this trip. Average food, average beer, friendly service. They've been around for a while so they must fill some niche. We took a walk along the Susquehanna after supper and that was far more satisfying.

Market Street Bridge at dusk, Williamsport

The breakfast sandwiches at The Sawhorse Café on Tuesday weren't cheap but really, really good—and filling, enough fuel to get us to the Hadany Arch, Reptiland, Centralia, and supper at Tröegs Brewery. Tröegs was everything Bullfrog was not; excellent food and great craft beer in numerous styles.

Our last breakfast on Wednesday was at the Yellow Bird Cafe, a homey place with tasty offerings. IronPigs, 19th-century cement kilns, a mothballed steel plant; this was a day in the Pennsylvania that made stuff. Before dropping Melvin off at EWR, we had supper at Las Delicias Colombian Bistro, in Easton. The mixed grill was tasty once you picked your way through todos los papas en sus muchas formas.

This was not the 12-game itinerary we originally planned but pretty satisfying. Watson was wise to have stayed home. Ryan, Kevin, Chris and Bragdon would have enjoyed it, I think, although none have taken a trip of even this short (to us) length. But most of all, we should have invited Norton.

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