Sunday, September 21, 2014
TRAVELS ON ROUTE 6
I live on US Route 6 (aka the Grand Army of the Republic Highway) in Northeast PA. And many of the places to which I go for business and personal errands in Pike and Wayne counties are on Route 6.
I learned last year that Route 6 runs the entire length of the State of Pennsylvania, beginning at the New York border in Matamoras and ending at the Ohio border in Meadville. And while on my recent trip I learned that Route 6 actually runs coast to coast, from Bishop CA to Provincetown MA, and at one time was the longest highway in the US. It covers about 400 miles in PA and 3,200+ miles cross-country.
Last year I decided that I would travel the length of Route 6 in PA and visit the various sites along the way. The route has mile-markers throughout its PA run, beginning at 00 at the Ohio border and ending at 400 at the NY border. I live just before mile marker 368. Earlier this year I visited Scranton (near mile marker 332), and last week I visited Wellsboro (near marker 221). I chose Wellsboro because the Grand Canyon of PA.
I set out on Route 6 West Saturday morning, having just returned from Atlantic City on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately it rained during the entire trip, stopping just before I arrived at my destination, the Penn Wells Hotel on gas-lit Main Street in downtown Wellsboro (bigger than downtown Hawley but smaller than downtown Honesdale), so I could not partake of the beauty of the scenery on the way out. Luckily the sky was bright and clear, and traffic was minimal, on my ride home on Tuesday, so I was then able to take in and appreciate the beauty of nature driving through the mountains of northern PA.
Just a few feet off Route 6, on PA Routes 660 and 287, the Penn Wells Hotel, one of Wellsboro’s most historic landmarks originally built in 1869, is truly an “old-fashioned” venue, which is why I chose it. The current building, restored in the 1920s, has 73 character-filled guest rooms of varying sizes and types. I had a cozy but comfortable room on the first floor (actually the second - above the lobby). There is free high-speed wifi in all of the guest rooms.
Off the lobby are the Mary Wells Room open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch (with live piano music) and dinner on Sunday, and the Penn Wills Lounge. I was surprised to find that there was a public pay phone in the lobby (a true rarity these days).
Guests receive a complimentary full hot breakfast Monday through Sunday in the dining room, and a discount on the Sunday brunch charge. I had all my meals (except Saturday night on the train – see below – and lunch Saturday across the street at Café 1905 located inside Dunham’s Department Store) at the hotel - the food and service was impeccable.
Hotel guests are also welcome to use the indoor pool and fitness center, travel market, business center and guest laundry facilities of the more modern 89-room Penn Wells Lodge, two blocks down Main Street and actually on Route 6.
Wellsboro was founded in 1806 as the county seat of Tioga County, and “incorporated” in 1830. It is named for Mary Wells (no relation, I expect), wife of Benjamin Morris, who purchased the land on which the town was built in 1802.
I did it right this time, and booked my activities in advance online, except for Monday’s which I booked online while at the hotel.
Saturday night was the dinner ride on the Tioga Central Railroad’s Broadway Limited – an extended excursion through the PA countryside from Wellsboro Junction (3 miles north of downtown Wellsboro on RT 287) past Hammond Lake to Tioga and back. We left at 6:00 PM and returned about 8:15 PM. I chose the turkey dinner and strawberry shortcake, which was delicious. The stuffing was especially good, and the chef gave my table companions, a couple from nearby upstate NY, his special recipe while walking through the dining car after dinner gathering praise. The cost of the all-inclusive dinner was included in the price, with only beer and wine being extra.
The railroad was built in 1872 to carry coal. It still maintains regular freight service between Wellsboro and Corning NY. Tioga Central Railroad offers several excursion options from the end of May through October, with a special Santa Express in November and December.
Sunday’s activity was a matinee performance of A R Gurney’s THE DINING ROOM by Hamilton-Gibson Productions, a community performing arts organization that began in 1991, at the Warehouse Theatre, on Central Avenue just off Main Street two blocks from the hotel. The show, and cast, was great.
Prior to the show I read my mystery book sitting in the public square known as “The Green” (where I also found a public pay phone) across the street from the county courthouse,
Monday I had planned to visit Pine Creek Gorge, aka the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, which stretches for over 45 miles with depths of nearly 1500 feet. It is part of the Tioga State Forest. I originally intended to drive to the gorge and the various scenic vantage points (I am not a hiker), but learned about “Ole Covered Wagon Tours” via a brochure from the display rack in the hotel lobby and booked the 12:30 horse-drawn wagon ride through the canyon.
The 2-hour round trip ride, with an Amish driver (very few others are still trained in “driving” horse-drawn vehicles) began at a family-run farm in Ansonia and took the eight of us along the Pine Creek Rail Trail and back, with colorful commentary on the history of the area and its logging days from our guide. The guide pointed out that every component of the trip was made in America, except for the public-address system on the wagon, which was made in China. It was the only thing that did not work properly.
I am sorry now that I did not schedule being in the area on a Wednesday, as "Ole Covered Wagon Tours" offers a longer "Wednesday Waterfall Ride" to Little Four Mile Falls.
It was a wonderful, practically perfect, trip, with many of my favorite vacation components – a scenic drive (and rides), an historic old-fashioned hotel, theatre, a train ride, relaxation, and great food and drink. I look forward to another trip along Route 6 in PA next year.