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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As we climbed up into the mountains of Sequoia National Park, the temperature dropped sharply. We rode from Porterville and it’s scorched earth up into the park where the roads were wet and the air was cool.
It seemed that we’d once again skirted what must have been a soaking rain. The sun dipped lower in the sky and dampness clung to the air between the trees. It made me shiver as I rode along.
The closer we got to the Giant Forest Museum sent my mind reeling back to the moment in 2008 when I came close to hitting a black bear on the road. Some part of me was expecting to see another fuzzy buddy come traipsing across the road.
I only wish that I had the power to convey what it feels like to be amongst the red bark of the giant sequoias. Majestic just seems trite. Their ancient bodies are something more. They carry some ethereal spirit that I swear you can feel when you are in their presence.
Nighttime was hot on our heels. As we headed westward on the General’s Highway, we started to catch glimpses of a pink sunset through the trees. It was like a game of cat and mouse. Whenever I was in a place to get a good view, I was unable to stop and when I was able to stop, I couldn’t get a good view. Luck must’ve been on our sides though, because we came to a pullout with a great view for the last whisper of the daylight.
A 60 degree Sunday afternoon at the end of November is a treat here in the Northeast. Old man winter is patiently waiting to come knocking on our door. In the meantime we made the most of our limited daylight hours with a riding excursion to the Fire Island Lighthouse.
We parked our motorcycles in one of the parking fields and walked along the wooden walkway amongst the golden reeds. There are signs of deer, foxes and other small animals everywhere. Sadly we didn’t catch a glimpse of any.
The Fire Island Lighthouse is New York’s tallest lighthouse at over 160 feet above sea level. We found that out in a hurry when we trudged our gear laden behinds up the 156 steps of the narrow spiral staircase. The combination of the post-Thanksgiving food hangover and the motorcycle gear made for an um… labored climb to the observation deck. 😀
I’ll tell you, it’s always that last ladder at the very top of so many lighthouses that really gives me the willies. I’ve got a bit of the fear of heights. I have imagined myself tumbling ass over teakettle down the spiral stairs with a decidedly ungraceful thud on more than one occasion. What is it about turning around on a ladder to come down backwards that is so scary?
The ride itself to the lighthouse isn’t thrilling. But a nice walk in the sunshine, the rolling waves along the beach, the sea air – they make it worth the trip.