Wednesday, June 22, 2011

PA Turnpike, Father’s Day…and Ultrarunning

Image credit here.

This near-real time blogging, triggered by my road trip on Tuesday (21st), from my home in Chambersburg, PA, along the PA Turnpike to  the Alleghany Valley interchange (Rt 28).  Purpose was to participate in a meeting with one of our R&D contractors.

The PA Turnpike is legendary, America’s original superhighway.  Portions opened in 1940 with the full mainline across the state completed in 1949.  If you’ve ever traversed the state, chances are you traveled on the PA Turnpike (currently designated as Interstate 76).  By modern standards, the highway is somewhat primitive, but as the road enters its 8th decade, major rebuilding projects have upgraded it to contemporary standards. 

My  personal connection is that my father was an over-the-road trucker in the 1950s, hauling ne automobiles from Detroit to New York City.  I like to say I got the “Teamster gene” from him (so-named for his strong union connections), and I love me some road trip.  Give me maps, coffee, the radio (now Sirius XM!) and a destination, and I’m there.  The lure and mystique of the road, not a known journey to a fixed place, but rather a flexible and infinitely variable adventure awaits.

There is a 12-mile stretch of the Turnpike near Breezewood, now abandoned, that  contains 2 tunnels.  The original road, 4 lanes (2 each way) narrowed to 2 lanes (1 each way) at the Sideling Hill and Rays Mountain Tunnels.  As traffic increased, bottlenecks developed, so a bypass was constructed and opened in 1968.  The abandoned section, with tunnels, sits there quietly in the woods, slowly deteriorating.  A rails-to-trails type groups now owns it and permits recreational use by pedestrians and bikers, to include tunnel access.

Oh, and the connection to Ultrarunning: I have run there several times, and it’s a Twilight Zone-like trip.  It’s like being in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust and you are the only person left, alone along this abandoned roadway.  I feel particularly eerie knowing that I can now stand right where my father, a half century ago, rumbled through with his car-carrier.

This post has kinda morphed from an account of a road trip, to PA Turnpike history, to fathers.  My dad was flawed but always did the best he could do for his family, and I love and honor him for that.  That’s all that any of the men in my life who fulfill the father role can do, and they all do it well.


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