In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A long one

After leaving Mark's place I continued through Ohio and into Pennsylvania. One thing different I've noticed from the east and west so far on my travels is that there appears to be a heck of a lot more people out east then west. In the west everyone is pretty much located right along the coast, but in the east people are spread out a lot more; making it tough to cover much ground on two lane black tops since you're constantly slowing down for residential areas. At least out east most of the towns don't appear to survive on tourism alone like many of the small west coast towns, making them much more interesting to me. A lot more people have been dying out here for a lot longer too because I've noticed a lot more cemeteries as well.

Just when I think it's going to stay populated for good I suddenly find myself all alone in the woods with no one else around; it's always a welcome change. That's where I found myself early Tuesday afternoon. I was in a state forest in Pennsylvania when I veered off down a dirt road to see what was at the end. I found what must have been a hunters camp but since it wasn't hunting season yet it was vacant. It was only a few miles off the blacktop I'd been traveling but it could have been 100 miles for all you could tell standing there. There was a nice porch around the house with lots of benches, chairs, and sofas so people could sit around and talk. Above were many deer racks hung to the wall, no doubt trophies from each year people had been coming. There was plenty of wood stacked up on the porch with a lot more in a wood shed in the side yard.

Leaning next to one of the trees in front of the house was what appeared to be a headstone. It was crooked and getting very worn, the only thing I could easily make out when I studied it was the very top line, “To a Tree”. I got out my wireless flash hoping some side light would create enough contrast to make it readable. It was a big help but I still can't make it out. I can see the first line looks to be “When God above” but after that I can't make it out. I'll study it more later and see what I can do.

A well out back had a steel cup hanging from a nail like you were just supposed to dip in and take a drink. One look into that water quenched my thirst though. The water didn't look all that clean and there was lots of junk floating on it, including a couple real big, real juicy bugs. I suppose someone skims those off before the groups show up for the season though.

The water ran from the well through a PVC pipe, into a wood box, and then out of that onto the ground where it flowed into the stream running in front of the house. I was curious what was in that wood box so I opened up a hinged lid on the top. What I found under the “roof” was a bathtub sunk in the ground, full of nice cool water. Sunk in the water were about 8 cans of soda. At first I was surprised there wasn't any beer, but then I realized it was probably all drank up long ago.

It was a really cool place and I imagine everyone but the deer have a great time there every fall. I pulled my chair out of the back of my house, set it up in the shade, and started reading my new book, Look me in the Eye. I quickly got lost in the book and was glad I chose to read it in the middle of the woods instead of the middle of the library. I couldn't help but laugh out loud, really loud, a few times. Before I knew it nearly 4 hours had passed by.

I hadn't eaten any dinner yet so I made myself a turkey sandwich and went for a hike. The dirt road continued past the house but it crossed a creek and soon became very steep and rocky. There's no way my house would have been able to make it. That's fine though since I needed the exercise anyway. It was a very peaceful walk late in the afternoon. Some of the trees were beginning to turn creating brilliant splashes of red here and there. I saw a few deer peacefully eating along side the road. I hope they enjoy the peace and quiet while they still can.

After a little over a mile I reached a gravel road and continued down it until I reached another trail, Dead Horse Trail. I'll give the Pennsylvanians one thing; they sure are good at naming roads and trails. I saw quite a few good names while driving/walking through the woods, most of which I can't remember. Two others that I do remember though were Hick's Road and Bloody Skillet Trail. How do you come up with a name like Bloody Skillet Trail? Sure makes you wonder...or maybe it makes you not want to wonder.

I never did see any dead horses on Dead Horse Trail but it was pretty uneven ground with plenty of rocks and holes hiding under the laid down grass; maybe that's how it got the name. Who knows.

I managed to find my way back to camp a little before sunset and found myself a comfy place to sit on the porch to do a little more reading. It was a very peaceful evening with a woodpecker tap tap tapping in front of me and grouse noisily flying through the woods around me. The katydids starting up their little chorus just as the sun was setting and a little while later a Barred Owl started calling from down the road a ways. Not to mention all the other strange new bird sounds I'm not used to hearing back in Iowa.

I finally climbed into my house to catch some sleep for the night before waking up the next morning. I had a mission after all, I had to get to Campmor in New Jersey! Campmor is a company that specializes in camping gear (in case you couldn't figure it out from the name) . Not only camping gear, but cheap camping gear! It's good stuff too, it's just that it's usually last years models or discontinued colors or stuff like that. Since I don't care about having the latest stuff it suits my needs just fine. I've only shopped with them online or in their little catalog so I was excited to go to their one and only retail store.

To get there I had to finish driving through Pennsylvania and then through New Jersey to Paramus. I knew I didn't want to get there too late in the afternoon since it was an urban area and only about 30 miles from NYC. Figuring rush hour traffic would be pretty bad I broke down on hopped on I-80 to try and get there before by early/mid-afternoon.

The plan worked out fine and I arrived at Campmor around 2:30. It was great to just wander around the store and browse all the stuff. I found lots of things I wanted but I convinced myself I only needed a few of them. I ended up with a new sleeping bag (warmer then my other one for colder weather ahead), a new, bigger backpack (for when I want to spend multiple days out in the woods), a pair of glove/mitten liners and a nice wind block winter hat. I left an hour and a half later satisfied and ready to get away from civilization again. I headed north out of Paramus and was surprised how quickly the city was left behind and I was soon winding my way through the woods; passing small, quaint little towns.

I made it to the Catskills that night and found a nice little place to pull my house off the side of the road to catch some sleep. I slept well and found it still comfortably warm when I woke up in the morning. I wasn't ready to get up yet so I grabbed my book, knowing I only had about 45 minutes of reading to finish it. As soon as I started reading I could hear some distant rumbles of thunder which kept getting longer and louder. Pretty soon I could see the flashes of lightning and the wind started to pick up a little. It was getting darker and I had to turn on a light to keep reading. As the rain started falling I was very glad I had my house to sleep in while out traveling. It turned out to be much more fun going through a thunderstorm inside my house rather then huddled under a tarp on the prairies of South Dakota.

After a little while the rain quit and the thunder gradually got quieter and quieter until it was gone. I finished my book and got up for the day. When I got outside found a light fog all around and I could hear the rush of water nearby. Looking through the trees I could see there must be a creek nearby. I took a short stroll and found a gorgeous little rocky creek running it's way through the woods. I hopped my way out to the middle to admire the view and to take a few pictures. The only thing that could have made the fall morning any more perfect would have been if it wasn't so dang humid! Thankfully a cold front is coming through which should drop the temps (it was over 90 yesterday!) and the humidity.

The weekend is supposed to be magnificent weather and I'm planning on spending it in the Adirondacks in New York before heading the rest of the way to Maine. Unfortunately everyone and their brother will probably be out if the weather is real nice this weekend. Too bad it wasn't working out so I could spend a few days there in the middle of the week; I really like being able to do that; hitting the more popular spots while everyone else is working.

I guess it's a small price to pay though for getting great fall weather. Somehow I'm sure I'll manage to survive.

I don't know if I'll get another wi-fi connection before I disappear in the woods or not so you might not hear from me for a few days. Until then....


Edith said...

Al I have been dealing with A__holes all day. After reading your blog. It gave me a little respite. We drove through Pennsylvania in October and the fall leaves were beautiful. Enjoy the season as much as you can. Take care and be safe.

Roy G. said...

Glad your doing well Alan. Liked the picture of the wood pile and also the one of the creek.

Also your best writing in a while, think your hitting your stride. Maybe takes a week on the road to get to the right spot in your mind.

bjbuell said...

To A Tree
When God above
shall call me home
And I on earth no
more shall roam
Lay me to rest
That's as much as we could make out. Did you get it figured out yet, Al?

Alan Gage said...

Wow Barb, you guys are good! That's more then I could make out. I hadn't gotten around to trying to giving it another shot yet but I just got done playing with the original in photoshop and trying some different things. I was able to get the words to stand out more but I still couldn't pick up any more then you did.

Funny thing was after I got done staring at it in PS and trying to tweak this and that when I went back and looked at the original I'd posted the words almost seemed to jump off of it. I suppose actually knowing what it says and where the words are makes it that much more apparent.

Thanks for the deciphering help!

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.