Category: Road Trips

Retro New York: The Parksville Pharmacy

Retro New York: The Parksville Pharmacy

There’s been a pin on my Google map at the location of the Parksville Pharmacy, in the Sullivan County town of Parksville, New York for a long time. I first noticed the old building’s hunter green panels and weathered signage on Instagram. Social media for the win. 😉

Parksville Pharmacy Facade - Sullivan County - Parksville, NY

Throughout the course of my life, I’m not sure just how many times I’ve passed the ghost town’s exit off of Route 17. And I’m amazed that I never caught a glimpse of the old store. During one of our cold weather drives, we wheeled through what is left of town to finally visit the map star in person.

Main drag in Parksville -  Sullivan County - Parksville, NY

There was absolutely nothing going on.

Parksville Pharmacy  Signs - Sullivan County - Parksville, NY

Remnants of a former gas station.

Old Gas station Light - Sullivan County - Parksville, NY

I remember gas station lights like this from when I was a kid. Seeing it filled me with a funny sense of longing and… loss? Maybe that isn’t the right word, but whatever the sensation was, I felt it in my belly. In some strange way it almost felt like a broken heart.

My memory transported me back to gas stations of my youth with the ding-ding hose bells, colorful triangle-shaped flags, rotating brand signs, and these melancholy lamps hanging over the pump island.

My youth. Gone.

Parksville Pharmacy - Sullivan County - Parksville, NY
Parksville Pharmacy - Sullivan County - Parksville, NY
Parksville Pharmacy - Sullivan County - Parksville, NY
Parksville Pharmacy Door  - Sullivan County - Parksville, NY
Photos: Steamtown National Historic Site

Photos: Steamtown National Historic Site

Steamtown national historic site sign - scranton pennsylvania

This spring I took a drive to Scranton, Pennsylvania to visit Steamtown National Historic Site. While I was there, strict COVID protocols limited access to some of the indoor spaces and displays, but I was able to enjoy walking around outside in the train yard.

Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania - engine 47

I’m not what you would call a hardcore railfan but I find the machines interesting nonetheless.

Steam engines make me think of my dad, who was indeed into trains. He’d told me stories about hanging around the train yard as a kid, and I kept that narrative in my mind – making up tales of what that kid-version of him would have thought about what I was looking at as I walked around.

Walking the tracks at steamtown

The thing I found most fascinating about the locomotives is how much “life” they seemed to have within them. They exude power and something like a sense of menace. Especially inside the workshop. They looked like sleeping animals that could roar to life at any moment and tear the building from its foundations. But, they instead allowed themselves to be tamed, to be cared for by their handlers. For now.

Indoor display of locomotives being worked on - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania

One of the indoor displays features a cutaway where you can see the inner workings of the engine. Looking at it, I found it a marvel that anyone could figure out the method to the madness of tubes, and chambers and lines to make these beasts go. Fascinating.

Interesting place. Worth the visit.

cutaway engine - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Rusting steam engine - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Brooks-Scanlon coal car - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Boso Texino railroad graffiti Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania

Dirt graffiti on a rail yard car – Bozo Texino ⁠

Apparently like any other subculture, there is a visual language and common mythology among railroad hoboes. There is actually a movie that tries to uncover this very graffiti subject called: “Who is Bozo Texino?”⁠

File Under: There is always something new to learn.

peeling paint and rust on rail car - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania

In rust we trust.

green mountain rusting boxcar - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 47 at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
rusting boxcar Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
canadian national railways - rusting train car - Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 47 at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 790 at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
engine 6039 inside the shop at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
bungs at Steamtown national historical site - scranton pennsylvania
Palm Springs Window Reflections

Palm Springs Window Reflections

Having my picture taken isn’t fun. I hate the way I look.

Sometimes I go through the process of taking selfies to try to work through these feelings. At this point, it seems like a futile effort to come to terms with the aging person that I am.

When I look at the person in the pictures it’s never the person I feel like on the inside. Geeeeezus, who the fuck is this old bag with the tired eyes?!

What comes next is an exercise in tallying up all of the things that are “wrong” with me and then spiraling into a loop of self-loathing. Is this normal? Sometimes I feel like it might be. I mean, who isn’t plagued by some level of feeling like if they just had <insert thing here> then they’d feel a million-bajillion times better? Is it all just a matter of degrees?

Taking pics in my riding gear or with my helmet on, or even wearing my glasses feels much easier. There is a sense of safety in being covered in some way. You see me, but you don’t. I prefer that.

Who would’ve ever though just showing yourself to the world as you are, would be such an act of vulnerability? 🤷‍♀️Especially considering you walk around all day doing just that.

Anyway, this was me, in my safety suit, reflected in the SHAG store window in Palm Springs.

Stay weird, friends.

A Yeti, an Art Gallery, a Kickass Road – This must be Ranchita, California

A Yeti, an Art Gallery, a Kickass Road – This must be Ranchita, California

In December of 2016, I was in California taking a week-long riding trip. I flew to LA, rented a bike and wandered about. While heading towards Borrego Spring on Montezuma-Borrego Highway, I passed a Yeti in Ranchita. Often people will ask me how I find such things. In this case, it was pure serendipity.

So was this little roadside art gallery. You just never know what you’re going to find out there in the world, do ya?

One of the patronages of St. Maurice is to the Brotherhood of Blackheads. I myself have not-so-great skin, but damned if I’m joining a club about it.

Saint Maurice

A place of subtle old fashioned
virtues an escape from …
present into a softer more
gentle way of life and opening
up to light and the weather
a sense of real luxury
the kind that cannot be
measured by monetary standards
a level of tranquility
a sweethnes[sic] of tone
an uncomplicated
round for the ongoing

Party of One – Wednesday Night in Breezewood

Party of One – Wednesday Night in Breezewood

In the past couple of years, I’ve cruised through the town of Breezewood, Pennsylvania a handful of times. Not because I was seeking it out, but just… because. If you’re riding along Route 30, it just happens. One minute you’re buzzing through nothing much and then whammo! You’re smack in the middle of a kaleidoscope of chain restaurants, hotels and gas stations.

Breeeeeeeeeezewood. There is something so lovely about the name. I imagine walking through waist-high grass wearing a floppy straw hat, with the wind tumbling the ends of my hair in Breezewood. The sun would gently kiss your golden tanned shoulders in Breezewood. You can twirl and twirl and fall down laughing under a bright blue sky in Breezewood. In truth, you’re more likely to have to scrape off the hot gum you stepped in, on the edge of the curb, in Breezewood.

As a northeastern suburbanite, the presence of so many chain establishments isn’t in and of itself strange. It’s more the juxtaposition of traveling along the bucolic rolling hills of Route 30 into an entire town that is essentially a highway rest area that is a shock to the system. Then there is the matter that Breezewood, as crazy as it sounds, is the onramp between I-70 and the PA Turnpike.


photo source – Wikipedia

On my way home from West Virginia, I found myself at both the proverbial and actual crossroads in Breezewood. I’d already logged 300+ miles in the saddle for the day. And since it was near dinner time, I was faced with a dilemma: do I continue home, knocking out another 300+ miles on the slab -or- just pack it in for the night and continue on the following morning? Something about the Bonneville helps me find my take it easy vibe and so I opted to stay in franchise-heaven.

Every motorcyclist who passes through town must ask if they can park beneath front door canopy of the Holiday Inn Express. While checking in, the girl at the desk made sure to include that I needed to park my motorcycle in an actual parking space in the stream of instructions that she recited by rote. I’m not even sure she took a single breath as the words flowed forth and she pointed to the direction of the elevator.

After getting settled and having a shower, I decided to set off on foot to grab some dinner. The nearest restaurant was a place called Bob Evans. I’d seen the name scrawled in cheerful white letters many times on highway attraction signs so I figured – what the hell.

Not knowing what to expect I was surprised to find that I had to run the gauntlet of impulse purchasing before finding the person who would seat me for dinner. If you told me that their retail maze lost three elderly ladies to starvation each week, I wouldn’t be surprised.

“Dearest Henry,

I am writing this from a makeshift shelter that I fashioned out of tea towels with wine grapes embroidered on them.

Things here at the Bob Evans gift shop aren’t looking good. Somehow I got separated from the group. One minute we were looking at miniature license plates and monogrammed umbrellas and the next thing I know I was wandering alone in a vast sea of Intercourse and Blue Ball shot glasses.

My dear, I fear the worst. Go on without me.

Ever yours,
Margaret”

Needless to say, the front of the restaurant was a store full of useless, folksy junk. The upside, of course, is that if I ever find myself in the market for a t-shirt that says “You are the bacon to my eggs,” or a jelly for any occasion, well, now I know where to go. Though at my age, my eggs just want to be left the hell alone.

What I’ve come to realize is that I really don’t like chain “diner” food. Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Bob Evans, Waffle House… they all have a loyal following but the appeal is lost on me. Their food is meh, at best. Some towny diner’s omelet will always be better but how much of that better-ness can be attributed to the ambiance, I can’t say. I suppose like my penchant for Holiday Inn Express, people find comfort in knowing what they’re in for each time.

When the host made his way to the podium to seat me, he grabbed a single menu out of the stack and said with pitying flair that arced up to a squeak on the end, “just onnnne?” Indeed, Chip, it’s just me, a party of one at a Bob Evans in Breezewood, Pennsylvania at 8 pm on Wednesday. Maybe I should start saying No, party of two and then motion to an imaginary friend.

As a solo diner, you get to be a fly on the wall. As you sit in your silence the conversations that go on around you find their way to your ears. Because you aren’t focused on anyone across the table from you, your eyes are free to roam around the room and take in things that are overlooked when you have company.

When traveling, I like to bring my notebook to dinner. While unwinding from the day’s constant motion I try to record whatever I can remember. I find it therapeutic.

Have I ever told you that I have a deluded fantasy life? In it, I am far more interesting and important than I am in my real life. I like to pretend that everyone notices me writing and that they’re dying to know what I’m writing about. There are two stock fantasy people who write in my notebook at dinner – the novelist and my go to: the food critic. I don’t even know why that idea appeals to me. It’s ridiculous, really, especially considering the places I find myself dining. The Moons Over My Hammy had a slightly smoky flavor with a smooth finish.

When the waitress sauntered over to take my order, she said, “is it just you tonight, honey?” (what is it with these people?)

As I ate and scribbled, I watched the goings on of the restaurant. At the table closest to me was a couple in their late 60s, maybe early 70s. Throughout their whole meal, I didn’t see them exchange a single word. Not. One. And while it could be that they’ve elevated in their relationship to be able to enjoy a comfortable silence together, I projected my own feelings on what I saw. It was like two people sleepwalking. And at that moment, I realized though I was alone, I was not lonely.

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