Williamsport, Pa., Day One

I really haven’t been on the road since 2013, it just seems that way.

Actually my friend and fellow writer Betsy McMillan and I have been plotting this trip since winter as a way to just get away and write.  I vetoed a winter trip on the theory that Pennsylvania had probably not improved its snow removal practices in the years since I moved away. Instead, we chose construction season, but it was more than worth the drive.


Betsy at the Peter Herdic House
Betsy at the Peter Herdic House

My car having failed to start on Tuesday (that’s another story), I rented a cute little Hyundai Elantra and then got off to a slow start because a mystery light appeared on the dash of that car, and I wasn’t about to read the thousand-page manual to find out what it was. So at 9:30-ish on Friday the 18th, I drove to the rental place. The young man who waited on me took one look and said, “Oh, it’s low tire pressure.” We walked around the car and couldn’t see a problem so he drove over to Valvoline and was back before I could finish a phone call.

I drove out and ran into the usual insanity in Waterbury. Roads were clear after that, even in Danbury, until I hit the NY line. Then it was construction, construction pretty much from Newburgh to Williamsport, single lanes on 84, 81, and 80 with 45 – 55 mph speed limits, which was really 25. Then more construction on the state road with a line of traffic stretching up one hill and down the next.

I lost NPR at the Conn. boarder, listened to WCBS 880 until Scranton or thereabouts, then tried FM again. It was all “come to Jesus,” either with music or with talk until the outskirts of Williamsport. I’m assuming I picked up the Bucknell U. station, which was playing “Science Friday.” It faded in and out but was better than any alternative.

Highlights: NY has changed REST stop to TEXT stop, which I think is genius with a notice that a third text-while-driving offense will result in loss of license. Hooray!!!

A stop for gas in Nuangola, Pa., cost about sixty cents less per gallon than in Conn., and I don’t think I spent $50 on gas for the whole trip.

I arrived in Wport at about 3:30 and drove in circles, though I only passed the Little League Hall of Fame, etc. once. Asked at a D&D,  where none of the workers seemed to know where to send me, though they were pretty sure it was over the river. The river being West Branch of the Susquehanna. I could only see the Holiday Inn Express – did not realize that Hampton Inn, H.I. and H.I.E. all occupied the same real estate.

Drove through some gorgeous, expensive houses where the homeowners mostly seemed to be doing their own yard work. A  fringe of ghetto licked near the hotel.

Finally arrived at the hotel an hour later. Had to wait because people had taken all the luggage carts and failed to return them.  Settled in at 5-ish. Called Larry. Showered. Waited for Betsy, who arrived at about 5:45. We organized and then went to dinner, her treat.

The Peter Herdic House, Victorian era, is an opulent display of wealth, primarily in wood because Herdic was a robber – I mean lumber — baron. The cupola with the chandelier hanging down three stories is the highlight. It was hot, hot, hot when we got to the top but more than worth the trip.

Dinner served up mouth-watering selections. I had Prosecco, Betsy Chateau Ste. Michele Riesling. She enjoyed a salad with cherries, and goat cheese; I had excellent basic greens and let the waitress talk me into adding the dressing, not putting it on the side.

“We dress. We don’t drown,” she said, and I agreed. For dinner, I had spinach gnudi – a variation of gnocchi but without the leaden-ness, served with a tomato-cream sauce and pine nuts. Betsy had shrimp with pasta and vegetables. We loved our meals but both left with half in take-out containers.

We wrote some during the evening as we sipped more drank wine, The excellent Pinot Grigio that Betsy crafted and a bottle of Casal Garcia that I brought.

Please blame any inaccuracies on the excellent beverage.

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