“Quote of the day”
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ―Thomas A. Edison
Name the first baseball team to win 100 games in three (3) straight seasons.
Adventures in Potter County – Part 1
Back in the 90’s we would usually make plans to spend a summer weekend with our good friends, Mark and Judy W. in Potter County, Pennsylvania. There was a cabin located there that Mark & Judy had access to as a benefit for being members of a hunting lodge. Ironically, neither of them were hunters. Instead, they took advantage of their membership to use the cabin during the summer months as a vacation home.
The lodge itself was located on a small plot of land in the Susquehannock State Forest. It was a simple two story cabin that was built sometime in the 1920’s. The downstairs was comprised of two rooms, a small, fully functional kitchen, and a large living room/den area. In the living room, there was a wood burning stove, a couple of couches and a couple of easy chairs. The upstairs was one long room that functioned as a sleeping porch. On the outside of the cabin was a nice, large deck with a picnic table, a charcoal grill, and some outdoor chairs that overlooked a small creek running through the backyard. In terms of basic necessities, the house was wired with electricity, however there was no telephone service nor running water. Lastly, there was an outhouse a few feet from the cabin.
In June of 1992 Mark & Judy had invited us along with another couple, Judy & Jay, to spend a weekend there. We were excited because this would be the first summer that our son Nolan would be able to really enjoy the experience. We had brought him to the cabin the summer before, but he was not walking yet, and he spent a fair amount of time sitting in a backpack that was attached to my backside.
This time around, he was walking, talking, and curious about all sorts of things. And what better place to explore nature than a cabin surrounded by a forest. That Friday, after I arrived home from work, we loaded up the car with all of the essentials, portable baby crib, diaper bag, extra diapers, snacks, and baby clothes, and set out for Potter County. We guesstimated that our arrival time at the cabin would be around 9:30PM.
Potter County is located in central Pennsylvania, not far from the New York border. From our home in Flemington, NJ, the trip usually took about 4.5 hours. Our usual route would be to work our way north to I-80 via PA-611 and then head west for about three hours, depending upon traffic conditions. At Lockhaven, PA, we got off the interstate, took a sharp right and proceeded to traverse local county routes as we headed towards the roaring metropolis of Cross Fork (population 67.) Once we reached Cross Fork, a town with two bars and a gas station, we had to travel the last 5 miles on a dirt and gravel road.
Lockhaven was an actual city (population 9,700) that hosted Lockhaven University and it was the last stop where one could actually buy ample supplies, fill up the car w/gas and sit down in a restaurant. After leaving Lockhaven, it turned desolate very quickly. There were nothing more than a small towns scattered over county roads the rest of the way. More importantly, once you left Lockhaven, cell phone service was almost non-existent. You might find a pocket or two occasionally, but chances were between slim and none that you could place a call. That was the state of cellular networks in the early 90’s. Main corridors were fully covered, but veer off the straight and narrow, and you were on your own.
Typically, when we arrived in Lockhaven, we would stop at the local McDonalds to fuel up for the final two hours of the trip. Nolan always loved stopping there and consuming an order of their chicken nuggets. To this day, he is still a chicken nugget fan. I would usually stock up on a couple of Double Cheeseburgers while Nancy would order the salad. In order to save time, we would order the meals through the drive through and eat in the car as we continued our journey north. More than a French fry or two would be discovered when I was cleaning the car after the trip was over. Of course, that wasn’t as bad as when Jay discovered part of a six-foot hoagie under the passenger seat of his car some three days after a party. That’s another story for another time.
On this particular trip, we made it to Lockhaven by around 8:00 pm. The trip had been going smoothly although about every 15 minutes, we would hear Nolan ask from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” That became his running gag for many a future trip. My response; turn up the volume on the CD player.
We left Lockhaven and headed north on route 120. About forty five minutes later we blew through the town of North Bend and suddenly the car engine made a loud whiny sound and turned off. If you’ve ever been in a car that turns off unexpectedly, it can be a harrowing experience because the steering column also locks up as an anti-theft measure. If you aren’t going straight, turning is next to impossible.
Fortunately, I pumped the brakes a couple of times and guided the car off the road and onto the shoulder. We came to a full stop and I immediately turned on my emergency blinkers. It was now dark outside and there were no lights on the road. No cars were passing by, let alone a police car, to help. As we sat there thinking about what to do, a sense of panic crept in. This was the ultimate horror movie scene; car breaks down on a lonely country road and help is nowhere to be seen. What to do, what to do.
After taking a moment to calm down, we decided to investigate and attempt to see what was causing our problem. Now you have to understand that I am not a car person. I can do the basic things like check the oil, check tire pressure, and replace the coolant/anti-freeze and windshield wiper fluids when their levels get too low, but that’s about it. When an engine shuts off, I’m out of my league.
We got out of the car, popped the front hood, and took a look around the engine. Nothing stood out as a potential root cause of the problem. No hoses nor cables appeared to be loose or detached. Nothing looked out of place. We needed help.
Fortunately, I had my cell phone with me. As an IT employee of Bell Atlantic Mobile System, I was given one for handling after hours calls. And times like this. Unfortunately, there were zero bars of service indicating that we were out of range. Sigh! As we pondered our situation, we looked back along the road from where we had just driven and realized that there was the semblance of a town within spitting distance. While Nancy stayed with Nolan and the car, I walked the back into the town to see what sort of help might be available.
As I neared the town, I realized that the first building that I approached was a motel!!! I opened the door, walked in, and rang the little bell on the counter. A nice woman came in from the back room and asked how she could help me. I explained our situation and she informed me that the town was closed for the evening. Thus, the car would have to wait until morning. In the meantime, I was able to book a room for the night. I grabbed the room key and headed back to the car. After sharing the good news with Nancy, we then took turns transferring our luggage, food, and supplies from the car to the motel.
Job one was to get Nolan to the motel, so I put him on my shoulders, grabbed a piece of luggage and walked back to the room. As soon as Nolan got in the room, he jumped onto the second bed and started using it as a trampoline. This worked out to be a great distraction while we grabbed the final few items from the car. By this time, It was around 8:30 or so and we had no way to contact mark & Judy. We decided to have a quick dinner of pretzels, candy bars and a few other snacks, and then we all went right to bed. It had turned into a long day and tomorrow we would figure out what to do.
The next morning, we got up early (thanks Nolan) and by 8:00, we had made a list of the things we needed to accomplish. First, we had to find a mechanic to look at the car and determine what went wrong. Second, we had to find a way to get a message to Mark & Judy about our situation. And third, we needed to find a place to have some breakfast. We decided to divide and conquer. Nancy took on the task of rounding up breakfast while I explored our options on getting the car fixed. As I surveyed the scene, I noticed that the town of North Bend had two gas stations and in an unbelievable stroke of luck, it also had a huge Chevy dealership. Who would have thought that in the middle of nowhere, and I mean nowhere, there would be a Chevy dealer?
I went to the first gas station and asked them if they had the facilities to diagnose and repair a Toyota Supra. The guy looked at me, shrugged his shoulders and say, “Sorry, I only work on American brands.” I said thanks and walked over to the Chevy dealer. Same response (no surprise there.) Then I walked over to the other gas station. They guy said he had never worked on a Toyota, but he sure would love to give it a try. I said thanks and that I would get back to him. I wasn’t so sure I wanted him touching the car.
In the meantime, Nancy had found a small shop in town and bought some breakfast food; muffins if I remember it correctly. She brought them back to the motel and while we ate it, we contemplated our next steps. We agreed that she would give AAA a call to see if and when they could get to North Bend to take a look at the car. My task was to find a way to get to the cabin to see what help Mark, Judy, Jay & Judy could provide.
No sooner had I stuck out my thumb in hopes of hitchhiking there than a guy in a classic 1967 Pontiac GTO stopped and asked me where I was going. I told him my tale of woe and he generously offered to give me a lift to the cabin. It turned out that the guy was in town for the wedding of his college roommate, and he had been driving around looking to kill some time until the evening’s festivities were scheduled to begin. I directed him up to the cabin and about forty five minutes later we arrived at the cabin. Everyone was surprised to see us, and I after introducing my new found friend, I took the next few minutes explaining what had happened that past evening.
We piled into Mark & Judy’s car and with Judy and Jay following in their car, we all headed back to North Bend. When we got there, Nancy explained that she had reached the AAA office in Lockhaven and that the AAA mechanic had agreed to meet us at our car at 5:00 PM. Rather than hang around North Bend all day, we decided to head back to the cabin for the rest of the day.
We unloaded the Supra and transferred all of our groceries, luggage, and Nolan’s baby paraphernalia into Mark & Jay’s cars. In no time at all, we were back at the cabin. We spent the day catching up on what was going on in everyone’s lives and making plans for the next possible event. At around 4:00, Mark drove us back to North Bend.
The AAA tow truck arrived on time and the mechanic got out and introduced himself. It turned out that he had lived in Flemington for years and was quite familiar with our current stomping grounds. We exchanged a couple of stories or two and then he directed me to pop the hood, get in the car and try to start it up. After 30 seconds or so, he said to stop what I was doing and to come over to look under the hood with him. He pointed out that the “drive belt” had snapped and broken through its casing. He would be able to replace this part, but he could not finish the repair until later in the week. We agreed to let him tow it back to his shop in Lockhaven and that we would plan to pick it up the following weekend.
We said goodbye and then headed up to the cabin to enjoy the rest of the weekend. And it turned out to be a wonderful time. The water in the creek was bone chilling but refreshing for a 90 degree day as we alternated between soaking up the rays and wading in the creek. The park trails were teeming with bird calls and critters roaming in the underbrush. We built a campfire that night and Rocky, the local raccoon made an appearance looking for leftover scraps from dinner on the grill. Before long, we had sipped our way through a bottle of Jim Beam and a six pack or two of Sam Adams. Sleep came easy that night.
Sunday was moving day. We somehow managed to pack all of our stuff, all of Mark & Judy’s stuff, Nolan, Nancy, and me into their Toyota Camry for the drive home. They had graciously offered to drop us off back in Flemington and we gladly accepted the invitation. To say that it was cramped was an understatement, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Being a “napper,” I slept most of the way. Nolan, being 18 months old, also slept most of the way. Nancy, not so much. After the trip, she informed me that we ran into a huge traffic jam near the Pocono Raceway, but other than that, the trip was uneventful. Mark and Judy dropped us off in Flemington, we said goodbye’s and they proceeded on to Medford, NJ.
The next week, we arranged to rent out the cabin for the upcoming weekend and that Friday, we packed Nolan into our 1989 Honda Civic and once again, we were off to Potter County. This time, the trip was without incident and we made it up there in a little over four hours. Along the way, we stopped in Lockhaven and the mechanic returned the Supra to us, fully functional once again. We had a great weekend as we took a long walk each day, swam in the creek and barbecued dinner each night. Nolan thoroughly enjoyed himself as well.
That Sunday, after a final plunge in the creek, we packed up the cars, locked up the cabin and drove back to Flemington. Mark and Judy eventually told our story to the rest of the lodge member and shortly afterwards, they decided to have phone service installed at the cabin. We haven’t been back to Potter County in a long time, but I am willing to bet that there is still no cell service up there.
The Philadelphia Athletics, 1929-1931
Copyright 2021 by Robert Fox. All rights reserved
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