It was a very scenic drive leaving the State College area and heading for Connellsville just south of Pittsburg. Beautiful green, rolling hills with a touch of early Fall color.
We stayed at another large KOA getting ready to celebrate Halloween this weekend. It is on the Youghiogheny river in a hollow. A very scenic setting. The weather was cold but fair while we were there.
My Mom’s family, Mary & Michael Kovach, immigrated here in the early 1910s from Checklosovakia. My nephew Adam told me he thought they could be Rusyn Americans. According to a person I met, a lot of Slovakian immigrants came to this area as miners.
The immigrants were of an Eastern Orthodox religious background. A Byzantine Church was built in the late 1880s about 5 miles outside of Connellsville in Dunbar township. This is where the 1930 census has my mother living with her older brothers and sisters. The groundskeeper at the church told me it was the first Catholic church built out of stone in the United States. It was striking (and a bit out of place) with the onion dome towers.
Behind the church was a larger, well-tended cemetery with the graves of her mother, father, and several of her older brothers and sisters.
Mom came from a large family with 10 brothers and sisters. Her mother passed from complications of the birth of the last child, George. The father, for whatever reason, did not participate in their upbringing. This left the older children to take care of the younger ones. Most of the younger children were girls and married, and left the area like my Mom.
Like in Snow Shoe, I tried to make a connection with these ancestors while there. Wondering what their lives were like in this beautiful mountain area.
Connellsville itself was a large town – almost a small city – with a lot of traffic. It sits right on the river which makes for some scenic views. I visited the waterfront and learned the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile hiking and biking route, runs through Connellsville.
This ends the ‘roots’ part of the program! Tomorrow we make our way south (through the remnants of Ian 🙃) through the Appalachians over three days and a long stop at my friends Bill and Laura Zweigbaum in Tennessee.
It was a quick trip to Bellefonte Pennsylvania for two nights while I started the ‘roots’ part of our adventure. A couple of hundred miles west of New York, this area was opened to commercial logging followed by coal mining in the 1800s.
We stayed at a nice campground that obviously catered to Penn State football fans in the Fall. A lot of unattended large rigs are covered with Penn State hoo-ha. They had a game the coming weekend so a few early birds were there. The facility was very nice, had a nice pond next to some horse pastures. It also had a rather elaborate set of tracks for motocross bike racing.
My 2 x great grandfather Thomas Tubridy immigrated with his young family to the mountains just north of here in what is now the Burrough of Snoe Shoe. His youngest son, Thomas Anthony, was a successful coal miner and his son Edward Bernard – my grandfather – went to college at Penn State nearby to our RV park. More detail is on my Tubridy page.
It was a steep climb to the exit right off of Instatestate 80 for Snoe Shoe. I identified three different places in my genealogy research: Snoe Shoe, Moshannon, and the village of Gillentown which lies in between. This is where my grandfather lived with his father and two aunts in the 1900 census.
I imagined my grandfather making his way down to State College where he attended Penn State in the 1910s. Did he ride a horse or have a carriage? How long did it take?
St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetary is located near the Catholic Church in Snow Shoe. Two generations of Tubridys and some of their children are buried here. The first generation headstones were in pretty bad shape but the second generation had held up very well. The cemetery was well kept up.
It was moving to touch the headstones knowing that my ancestors had once touched them too.
Moshannon is an unincorporated community about 3 miles outside Snoe Shoe to the northwest. Right before you get into Moshannon is the village of Gillentown. There is a large facility here that is part of the Snoe Shoe Rails to Trails Association. This provides access to the old railroad bed that was vital to the extraction of lumber and coal. Membership in the association allowed the use of the trails for ATVs.
I imagined if my ancestors would ride the train into the coal mining areas.
Moshannon has a Post Office and to my surprise a small memorial to the veterans that fought in World War One – including my grandfather Edward. Like the cemetery, the monument was well kept up.
I imagined being there when the locals including my family were there to see its dedication.
I was planning to visit a museum the Lions David House museum in Snow Shoe, but alas no one showed up at the time it was supposed to be open. It has a collection of memorabilia and books on local history – it would have been interesting to see what was in there.
I spent time driving around. It is rural, to say the least. Mostly nice brick ranch houses like I remember my grandparents had. Felt pretty red 🔴.
Snow Shoe had a pizzeria, a discount beer store, and a laundromat. There is a nice Catholic Church next to the Cemetary and a Firehouse / Community Center. There was a large veterans memorial next to the Firehouse. There is a very large area with baseball fields and a pool at the edge of town. Right outside of town next to the Interstate is a large FedEx facility.
I felt I had accomplished what I was expecting to create a better connection to my past. Makes sense given the fact that it’s really all we have, and all of that is responsible for me being here, now. Pretty ethereal if you ask me.
My power was on this morning but I may have lost internet (or both).
Before the cameras went offline I could see a lot of debris and my patio was flooded, but that’s not unusual. They experienced 50 mph winds overnight and the city issued a lot of updates on outages and closures, including the main causeway (link to the mainland) being closed due to flooding for a while.
I would not be surprised if the crappy fence on the southern side came down in places. I put up some heavy rope between 6×6 posts to help contain this. If so, it will be interesting to see how it worked. I doubt I got any flooding in the garage from what I saw on the front cameras.
Update Friday morning.
My friend stopped by and confirmed that the only damage was some debris and downed trees. He told me that the tennis court at ramp road on the lagoon several blocks away from my house was under several feet of water.
Epilog Saturday morning
We leave Pennsylvania today headed for West Virginia – and right into the path of the remnants of Ian. Poetic justice I suppose 😆.
Our drive to Watkins Glen took us south through eastern Adirondack Park and west through rolling hills in southern NY. The KOA campground outside Watkins Glen is very nice and got big bonus points with a hot tub! The next afternoon for our visit was fair with a few showers after a rainy morning.
Watkins Glen State Park
The state park encompasses the gorge carved over millennia by a river. We could not walk the path at the bottom of the gorge (no dogs allowed) so we took the high road, as it were, on the upper rim of the canyon. While we didn’t get great views it was a fantastic walk and did give us some opportunities to see the gorge at the halfway point. The views, especially toward the town, were stunning.
Watkins Glen Raceway
Many, many years ago when I was in my early 30s I became a BMW enthusiast – still am to this day. The BMW Car Club had a magazine called The Roundel which I read religiously. It regularly talked about the racing at Watkins Glen.
The facility is quite expansive and set on a beautiful hillside. All around it are places to camp. I was able to get in and watch some Porches and one BMW racing on the track. Very cool.
This was another one of those places I had heard about for years but never visited. We ended up staying in the northwestern corner of the park near Lake Placid of Olympic history. I was stunned at how beautiful the area is!
There are a lot of resorts, inns, specialty shops, and other tourist-oriented activities here than I saw at some of my previous stops. Lots of places to rid yourself of those cumbersome wads of cash 😂.
We drove to the top of Whiteface Mountian in the afternoon. It was a clear day and the views were spectacular. A toll road leads to the top where there is a granite ‘Castle’ with an elevator to the observatory, restaurant, gift shop, and museum. No dogs were allowed so Jake and I somewhat carelessly walked the irregular stairway to the top. Fortunately, I didn’t fall and my knee held up better than I expected.
My friend Bill and his wife Darlene have a lot on Kimball Pond outside of Vienna Maine. We stayed for a couple of nights – it was pretty rainy but we did some good exploring!
I also got to meet Bill & Darlene’s friend Bob and his wife Carol. They have lived on the pond since the 1980s. Bob is the owner of Kimball Pond Boat Barn where he restores old wood boats. He gave me a great tour of his shop and we talked for a while about woodworking. Turns out he also plays trumpet with a big band, so we had a lot in common!
We stayed near the coast south of Bangor for four nights at our second destination. After a rainy week the skies cleared up and the temperature dropped! Our campground was near Bucksport, about a 30-mile drive to Acadia National Park. They were celebrating Halloween this weekend with the families that regularly camped there. The camp would close soon so I guess it was an excuse to get together one last time before winter sets in.
We spent two days visiting Acadia National Park. On the first day, we drove the Park Loop on the island’s east side. This used to be a two-way road but it was changed to a one-way loop allowing drivers to park in the right lane. The crowds were heavy but not gonzo like Yellowstone. I could stop at the more popular spots without too much hassle and manage the walks with my healing knee. Climbing on rocks was challenging until I figured out just to scoot on my butt 😉. Jake showed his true heritage as a breed known to climb rocks in the native Tibet 🐶.
Sand Beach and Jordan Pond are two of the more popular destinations on the Loop. Visibility was stunning on the first day and the water seemed to sparkle ✨.
We toured the western part of the park on Saturday. Crowds were noticeably less and in several of the spots like Pretty Marsh, we had to ourselves. The weather again was crystal clear and the perfect temperature.
Bucksport & Fort Knox
On the third day, we relaxed a bit and did some housekeeping. We made a trip in the morning to nearby Fort Knox outside of Bucksport. Next to the Fort is a unique suspension bridge called the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The Fort is named after It is named after Major General Henry Knox, the first U.S. Secretary of War and Commander of Artillery during the American Revolutionary War, who at the end of his life lived in Maine. Fort Knox in Tennesee is also named after him. The Fort was built over a decades-long period and never saw any action.
The next stop is Vienna Maine to the west, for a two-night stay on a friend’s lakefront property. We will continue our journey inland through New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York.
Leaving the Shenandoah area I headed north. By skirting the coast I ended up driving through mountain areas I had long heard of. Old sitcoms and movies sometimes featured these areas because of their proximity to the larger cities on the coast. A lot of popular entertainers would perform at venues in the areas.
The campground for the first night was right in heart of the old school Pennsylvania industrial area – very red 🔴. Rained pretty hard overnight. I stopped to see my old nemesis Three Mile Island on the way.
The second night we stopped in the Pocono area. I remember it being one of the more southerly ski areas on the east coast. Rainy all day.
Day three took us through the Catskills of Nork York and the Berkshires in New Hampshire to a campground outside of Springfield Massachusetts. The campground was one of the largest yet with over half the residents being full-timers.
Day 4 started clear, cold, and windy for a change. We had a beautiful drive through Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Seemed much hipper ☮️ than Pennsylvania – although I have to say I was surprised to see a highway outside of Scranton PA called ‘President Joe Biden Expressway’ 😵💫
Our last stop found us just over the New Hampshire – Maine border at a nice (and huge) campground on the Salmon Falls River. We got a nice spot near the river and Jake decided to cool off! This campground seemed the largest so far – and mostly deserted at least during the week. These larger campgrounds must be lively during the summer and fall weekends 🥳
The next stop will be near the Penobscot River south of Bangor near Acadia National Park. We’ll take a break from all the traveling and stay for 4 nights.
As a brash young man, I decided I would put my huge brain to use in solving the world’s energy problem. Of course, I had to do something completely different so I decided to become a nuclear engineer. I went to graduate school in Seattle where the campus not only had a nuclear reactor but it was housed in a glass building for all to see. Seriously, it’s a landmark now.
Not a full year into my studies the first large-scale accident at a commercial plant in the United States occurred at Three Mile Island. So much to my surprise when I noticed it along my route and I stopped by for a visit.
I remember flying with my professor in his private plane to the nearest NRC office in Portland Oregon to be briefed. The accident occurred in Unit 2 which has been shut down since the accident. Unit 1 remained in operation until 2019. Both are being decommissioned now – decade-long processes.
For me, it was a short sharp shock that essentially ended my career before it started. The more I learned about the industry the less I wanted to work in the field. I think the final straw was when I heard that nuclear engineers had the highest rate of suicides of all engineering degrees (probably not true 😉).