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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
                 Friday, August 29 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Homecoming day
Saturday, August 16 - vacation journal, part 5

Photo gallery related to this day's journal (20 photos)

Saturday was our only day to visit my home area of Vintondale, where I was born, Blacklick Township where I'd gone through the whole 12-year public school experience, and Nanty Glo where I had become almost famous through my teen column in the Journal and subsequently being the paper's third editor.

For the sake of nostalgia (not the cooking or the menu) we went to Belsano's Triangle-II restaurant, where my associate editor Judy Rose and her husband, Hobe, joined us for breakfast. It was a wet morning, but mostly just misty in Belsano. The Triangle, which will always be to me at least to some extent "The Pinehurst" (the name the restaurant had when I first started visiting it), is still unchanged, one of the few things in the area or, for that matter, the world, that has stayed so constant over the past 40 years.

After our meal, Mike and I drove our red rented Mustang past the old Kennedy Rancho on Redmill Road and back via Twin Rocks and on to Vintondale. This was the main goal of this day at "home," and a major objective of my whole trip: to rent bikes in Vintondale and ride at least as far as Twin Rocks, the major segment of the Ghost Town Trail that I haven't yet been able to traverse, and largely because I've never seen the site of the "ghost town" Bracken.

But alas, as we parked next to the Eliza Furnace and got out of the car the "mist" or drizzle that seemed to be light inside the car proved to be much "wetter" outside. As we stood there concluding that this was no morning for a bike ride, a family of bikers approached, soaked through their clothes as though to confirm our misgivings. We drove across the bridge to make a U-turn, noting that the bike rental facility on the Rexis side of the creek was closed. As we drove back through Vintondale we noticed too that the other bike shop, in the center of town, was also closed. Triple confirmation that this was no day for a bike ride.

After driving up the hill past Blacklick Valley High School and on into downtown, we parked across the street from the Methodist Church in Nanty Glo and walked back to the Journal building, which was as expected not open on a Saturday morning. I described some of the oldtime differences in the former downtown to Mike. The rain was just a mist again here and the photos he took don't even indicate that it was a rainy day. We stopped at the Gold Crown to see what if anything was new there (or whether I might see any familiar faces—I didn't), and again at the top of Pergrim Hill, the most changed sight in town since my previous visit in 2001 because of its recent widening, where we stopped at Sheetz.

Though somewhat torn by thoughts that by now it might be clear enough to take that bike ride, I concluded that even though that might be true here, it might not be so in Vintondale, so we pressed on to Johnstown, just because we had the time and it was inconceivable to pass up a chance to visit Johnstown, the original "city" in my life and the site of most of my undergraduate university education.

We parked near Glosser's and walked around Central Park and I sat a spell to read the Journal bought at Gold Crown while Mike took photos. Then it was up the Johnstown Expressway to Richland, where we were pleased to see that Rax was still in business. On at least one, and probably two of our cross-country driving trips from California to visit my parents and Mike's and Kevin's grandparents, Rax had become our favorite fast food purveyor, because it had one of my favorite menu items at the time, Philly cheesesteak, Mike liked their hamburgers better than most, and we all liked their whipped-cream-topped milkshakes in the domed cups. Mike wanted to see if they still had things he liked. He bought a cheesesteak sandwich and I was pleased to find something new to me on the menu, and to my liking now that I can't eat sandwiches, a cheesesteak salad. We drove up the mile or two to the UPJ campus to eat lunch at a picnic table on the beautiful grounds that had just been woods when I was attending its predecessor in Moxham.

We then made a visit to the Galleria where my main impression, other than how classy it is, was that it's the largest shopping mall I've been in that doesn't smell like CinnaBuns.

Then it was up the 219 expressway toward Ebensburg, which we exited at the route 53 intersection to take the shortcut back to Duncansville. We stopped at the Portage Railroad on Cresson Mountain, which Mike found much more developed since his visit as a teenager. On the way out, we decided to see the Gallitzin tunnels, which took us into Gallitzin via a road I'd never been on before. When I saw the large Catholic church I remarked that it looked like an Irish church and, to my surprise then noticed that it is St. Patrick's, something I'd never known before. The little park adjacent to the historic railroad twin tunnels was new, and I was so impressed by the bed and breakfast across the bridge that I went inside to look for a brochure. The proprietor met me in the entry and offered to show me around even though I wasn't looking to stay on this vacation. It's a very nice B&B, with an impressive second-story platform for viewing trains coming and going through the tunnel that's still used. The prices also seemed very reasonable compared with the averages in this country. I wondered, however, if the passing of trains through the night might make sleeping difficult.

We took the "back road" from Gallitzin into Altoona (past Horseshoe Curve), only to discover it was already too late to get into the Railroaders Memorial Museum, which is in much-enlarged quarters compared with our previous visit. We did walk over the new (to us) pedestrian overpass for some additional views of downtown Altoona.

Trying to come up with something to round out the day, I remembered having seen a fancy restaurant in Tyrone while on one of my last visits with my Mom before her passing. I suggested we look for that for dinner, so we drove past Lakemont Park and the new Altoona baseball stadium, up I-99 to Tyrone.

If Interstate 280 from San Jose to San Francisco, which claims to be "the world's most beautiful freeway" deserves its nickname, I-99 between Altoona and Tyrone may claim second place. In fact, 99 all the way from Bedford to its current terminus near Orbisonia has gorgeous valley views from one turn to the next as it wends through the eastern foothills of one of Pennsylvania's most lush green wide valleys. Now as we came to evening light the day had turned beautifully clear and fresh.

We found Burley's Restaurant next to the creek in Tyrone and were greeted by a maitre'd asking if we had reservations. When we said no, he offered to seat us in the bar, assuring us it was very nice and, when we agreed, pointing out the "railroad memorabilia" on display on the walls. We were soon greatly disappointed to discover that the bar was a smoking area, after having gotten used to virtually no public-use enclosed areas being smoking areas in California. It was definitely a step down from the other dining rooms we walked through to get to the bar, and two steps down from the screened porch on which I'd originally hoped we might be able to dine. Who'd have guessed you'd need to have reservations to get a good table in a restaurant in Tyrone? But it was Saturday night.... The food was creatively presented, well prepared to our specifications, and not overpriced despite the lack of anything we could call ambience. Railroad memorabilia? We couldn't find it.

We finished the day with a visit to the nearby Gardner's candy store and museum, which tempted us, especially with the sugar-free (but not calorie- or carbohydrate-free) selections. But we resisted and made our way back after dark on the old Route 220 past the much enlarged amusement park (DelGrasso's; formerly Bland Park) in Tipton and through Bellwood, where my family lived for a time before I was born.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Oconomowoc

Two tourists were driving through Wisconsin. As they were approaching Oconomowoc, they started arguing about the pronunciation of the town's name. They argued back and forth until they stopped for lunch. As they stood at the counter, one tourist asked the employee, "Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us? Would you please pronounce where we are very slowly?"

The girl leaned over the counter and said, "Burrrrrr gerrrrrr Kiiiiiing."

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz

Thought for today

Work is not always required. There is such a thing as sacred idleness.

— George MacDonald

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