Road Trips

We have all taken a road trip before.  Some people go down the shore.  Other people prefer to go camping or ride out to their favorite hiking trail.  In many cases such as the one that inspired this story, it was the love of family that put rubber to road.

When you were young, did your parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles ever take you on a road trip?  Did they force you to wake up at the early morning hours just to beat traffic?  Did you have to pack every necessity days in advance of the occasion?  You most likely fell asleep only to wake up to your grandparents arguing about how they missed a turn.  Little did you know at such a young age that those “missed turns” were providing lasting memories.

I can recall trips that now take 4 hours seemingly lasting for 2 days.  The 1982 Chevrolet camper was packed with my cousins and my sisters.  The Grease Soundtrack blared on the 8-track.  As we plowed-through the open highways of Pennsylvania, I did my best to keep from being bored.  There were no Gameboys or iPads.  The nearest telephone could have been thirty miles away.  That camper did have a CB radio but we never touched it.  GPS was unheard of and even Mapquest was over a decade away from changing the road trip forever.  Getting lost helped a close-knit family come together…ok, that’s just my utopian memories of childhood but what actually happened was that everyone came unglued and blood and hair got stuck to the walls of the old Chevy.

This is why taking a road trip alone can be what the doctor ordered.  Whether you’re married or single, with kids or without, every last one of us can use time alone for a few hours.  Although it doesn’t matter where you go, have you ever thought about going on one of the trips from your childhood?

My trip began on a clear, crisp Friday evening.  My destination was a place referred to by many simple as “God’s Country”.  I’ve made this trip many times but seldom have I trekked alone.  “Who needs a GPS?”  I muttered to myself as the Toyota V8 hummed out of the neighborhood.

As the light pollution radiating from the City of Reading grew smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror, towns such as Leesport, Hamburg, Port Clinton, and Schuylkillhaven lead the way to a town famous for  it’s brewery.  It was also the first “pit-stop”.  Any good road-trip needs supplies and snacks so I decided the “lone-trip” would be supplemented by our nation’s finest gift to the World…the personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut (pepperoni of course).

If you’ve ever had a Yuengling Lager, chances are that it came out of America’s Oldest Brewery which is located in Pottsville, PA.  As with most towns in Central Pennsylvania, Pottsville is so small that you’d miss it if you blink.

 

Along the way, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the rare and desirable.  No, not gold or diamonds but the machines that made American road trips so enjoyable.  Look into parking lots.  Pay attention to driveways along the country roads.  Or in this case, you may see a clean Ford Bronco right in front of you.

Pennsylvania is speckled with towns that might only stretch a mile or two but it’s what lies tucked-away in these sleepy little towns that makes an area so unique.  On a trip such as this, you don’t count the miles you pass, you count the towns. The idea of the “lone-trip” is to silently ponder the meaning of the things around you.  Ok, again, that is in a perfect world, by hour one into the trip you’ll be talking to yourself.  “Where am I right now?”  “What hit that dead deer on the side of the road?”  “Did that deer have a family?”  “Was the deer lonely and depressed so he decided to fling himself onto the highway?”

After letting your mind wander, you see a building.  The dull yellow glow grows larger as you go back in time for a few moments.  That glow is one person’s idea of heaven…or at least a Timothy Leary version of it.

 

 

With the night against your back and the thought of being corn-holed by some local cop you cut the photo-shoot short and hit the road again.  Through St. Claire, Frackville, Centrailia, and Aristes you go.  Towns turn into farms.  Farms bigger than towns.  The rows of corn stand watch over the roads.  It’s Friday night and it dawns on you that it seems like all of the World is asleep.

Out of the darkness another light appears from behind the acres of corn.  “What’s that sign say?”  you mutter silently to yourself.

“I DID pass a few car trailers a town ago, but it can’t be…”  The lights get brighter and all but blind you because your eyes have adjusted to the darkness.

Apparently everyone isn’t asleep.  How could they be?  It’s Friday Night and the Drag Strip is hot!  At about 11 o’clock the trip took a turn up a dusty road toward a chance encounter with an up-and-coming drag racer.

If you are daring enough to go on a long road trip by yourself, you have to be daring and hop off the path every now and then.  You might get lost or you MIGHT just see some racing action.  If you get lost in Numidia, PA, make sure it’s a Friday night in the Summer.

The funny thing about racetracks all over the World is that they are great for meeting new people.  The Weirdo of the Night decided to pop out from behind the bushes to see why this 1969 Chevelle was parked in the Winner’s Circle.

475 Cubic Inches of American power churned the Powerglide transmission to put down a pass that would make Vin Diesel jealous.  At 27, Mike Shupp is shaking the town with the help of another racer named Randy Krause.  “He’s been racing for years. Kinda took me under his wing and taught me how to race. Definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at today without his guidance…” Mike said of his mentor.

“I redid the car 2 years ago to look like my dads first car he had at 16 (He passed away in 2015) and the license plate on the car is actually his first plate from when he was 16.”  Mike reminisced.

 

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Just as quick as the fun started, it had to end so that the trip could get back underway.  There were many towns to see and the caffeine was running out.  Two hours into the trip seemed like it was 5.  “Why the hell did I decide to do this?  I’m going insane.”  you lament to yourself.  “Holy shit, what was that?” you say to yourself as you peer off into speckled night sky.  “Was that a UFO?”

You scramble to get the camera out and see if you can be the one to bring light to the topic of Extra Terrestrials.

Was it a UFO?  Was it Sunlight reflecting off of Venus?  Who cares!  It’s your trip!  Make up whatever story you want!

Please check back for Part Two of this article but in the mean-time here’s more of what happened along the way!

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Part 2 Teaser:

Part Two

 

 

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Article and Photography by Matt Graham
Photo Editing done with GIMP by goats