Monday, August 7, 2017

Western PA and Roads

Mad I am that mulch covers the eastern terminus of the Abandoned PA Turnpike. 

Our vacation this year was a bit atypical. So much so I didn't really have a chance to blog about it as we did it, so this might be one in a series of posts about our travels. And those posts won't take report on our travels in chronological order. You've been warned.

We ended our vacation with a jaunt to Western Pennsylvania. And I'm coming to believe in the value of a Pennsylvania-themed trip every summer. Not necessarily as the vacation, but as an extended weekend trip. The state is vast and diverse and, of course, it's filled with a ridiculous amount of . . . wait for it . . . 


Oh no, he's about to talk history.

There were some hidden gems out west, among them Fort Necessity. Before leaving our cabin at Ohiopyle, Sherry suggested we check a National Park Service site off the list. I was split between Fort Necessity and the Flight 93 Memorial leaning toward the latter because, well, I thought the former was a rinky little reconstruction of an important event that would be lost on the kids. 

I was wrong. 

I was wrong, first, in that it wasn't rinky. Well, the actual site of the battle is. A relatively young George Washington led a small force of Virginia troops that lost a battle defending an improvised fort in southwestern Pennsylvania. The fort itself is pretty insignificant: a crude wooden stockade surrounded by an earthen star-shaped "fort." And that fort was burnt down by the French upon its surrender. So what's there is a reconstruction. However, my hat is off to the National Park Service for the reconstruction and interpretation of it. That interpretation included a couple of living history guides who fired off a musket for us. That interpretation also included a good visitor center that put the event in context. 

By the way, I have a recessive sweet tooth for the French and Indian War. It's a conflict I often forget about. Then I get to a site like Ft. Necessity and I realize a) how fascinating I find the era and b) how good of a job Dr. Shannon did teaching me about the era in college. 

Oh, and another bonus: The NPS realizes that the story of Ft. Necessity alone might not be enough to captivate the audience, so they added an interpretive center about the National Road. Okay, now that scratches another itch. It also helps satisfy the needs of a parent traveling with a daughter who, frankly, couldn't really care that much about the battle of Ft. Necessity. She and I had fun imitating the travelers at an inn debating the financing of the national road. 

We took U.S. 40 toward Pittsburgh when we were done visiting. That was the original National Road. On our return Sunday we took part of the original Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) out near Bedford. Heaven for me, though at times slow driving. 

Interesting fact: the PA wilderness was so challenging in the late 18th century that a farmer wishing to sell his grain or corn to a market in Philadelphia would more quickly get his product there floating it down the Ohio and Mississippi then by boat to Philly than if he were to send it via horse or oxen directly east. 

Falls on the Youghiogheny River, part of that wilderness. George Washington ditched his raft before trying to go down this waterfall in Ohiopyle. 
The many attempts to traverse that wilderness led to some of our more fascinating highways and stories in our state's history. 

And it was interest in that wilderness that sparked a war between Britain and France, a war that lit a not-so-long fuse to our own revolution. 

Do you see the material I have to work with? Definitely worth a trip every year with the kids and Sherry. 

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