Anne Horrigan Geary: Time well spent in scenic Pennsylvania

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DALTON — Living among the scenic Berkshire hills, one can easily become jaded by their pastoral beauty. After a long, farmers' market summer season, we decided it was time for a change of scenery. The day after Labor Day, we hit the road for a week of other scenic wonders, mostly in the nearby state of Pennsylvania.

We have been to and through the Keystone state many times, but had never made it our prime destination. The weather was gorgeous, thanks to the hurricane keeping all the bad weather off the coast. We piled some gear into our SUV and began a trip that would cover more than a thousand miles.

Our first stop was Erie, on the lake of the same name. We traveled for about seven hours through the rolling hills of New York, and — when nearing the lake — acres and acres of vineyards. Our hotel offered views of a marina, a lighthouse, and a maritime museum. We had dinner overlooking the lake and nearby Presque Isle, which we planned to visit in the morning.

Presque Isle is a state park, stretching out into the lake for about seven miles. The ring road allows you to see views of the woodland and shore without worrying about oncoming traffic. Bike paths and walking trails also keep the cars and pedestrians safely separated. We stopped at several spots to take photos of the Erie shoreline and sandy beaches. Then, it was back to the highway.

Our next bed was waiting in Pittsburgh, but we detoured through the states of Ohio and West Virginia before heading there. We drove into Conneaut, Ohio in search of coffee and a bathroom, before we turned south for the town of Newell, West Virginia on the banks of the mighty Ohio River.

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In its heyday, the banks of the river were home to a multitude of manufacturers especially in the realm of glass and china. Most are gone, but the little town of Newell still has one large pottery factory, Homer Laughlin, the home of the well-known Fiesta dinnerware. I've collected this colorful pottery for years, and was looking forward to adding to my collection. Like a kid in a candy store, I was overwhelmed by the rows and rows, and stacks and stacks of dishes of every color.

An hour later, we were back in the car with two huge boxes stashed in the back. We were headed to Pittsburgh over some quiet country roads (well we were in West Virginia). Arriving in Pittsburgh before dinnertime, we relaxed in our hotel with a view of the confluence of the three rivers (Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela), as well as the city skyline, and the sports' venues. Because the Pirates were at home, a fleet of small boats ferried fans from Station Square (where we were staying) across to PNC Park. We decided to take a cruise on one of these faux steamboats before we left.

In the morning, we drove to the Strip district for shopping at my favorite fabric store, and then headed out to Sewickley for lunch. This suburb features quaint shops on the main streets, surrounded by large, older homes of well-to-do commuters. We returned to the water just in time for an afternoon cruise.

As you might expect, since it was after Labor Day, the crowd waiting to board was small, mostly a busload of senior citizens from nearby towns. We felt right at home amid the wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. The hour-long cruise on very placid water included a brief historical commentary which added greatly to our knowledge of the city.

The next morning. we turned east, planning our last stops to be in Harrisburg, Hershey, and Pennsylvania Dutch country before we circled back home.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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