Yeah, I changed the title. Author's prerogative.
We woke up at 6:20 a.m. on Saturday. By 6:40 we were rolling down the driveway in the dark, travel coffee mugs in hand, on our way to adventure and excitement in the wilds of Pennsylvania. I personally found nothing much adventurous and exciting until the sun came up. Because that's when we could actually see the countryside we were driving through.
I should explain at this point that A. hates freeways with a great and burning passion. Travel writers may purposely seek out the "back roads" when they want to experience "atmosphere" and "local flavor" to enhance their stories--A. wouldn't think of driving anywhere else. He doesn't want the scenic roads built for tourists, either. If a road is full of antiques and cute shoppes, it's not for him. He wants to see abandoned trailers and run-down diners. Luckily, both were in abundant supply on this trip.
We drove through the tail-end of the Appalachians in northern Pennsylvania. It looked pretty much like you would expect the Appalachians to look. Pretty fall colors, undulating hills, and trailers. The last bastion of true individuality is in real rural areas like this. You want to cover your house in hubcaps? Go right ahead! You want to store 10 junk cars in your front yard? Have at it! And of course, these people were not content with those slick, redwhiteandblue pre-printed campaign signs. They have opinions, dammit, and they want to voice them! In the form of spray painted plywood propped up in their driveways. We saw the right: "Proudly clinging to our guns and religion" and "Our Biggest American Mistake Awaits." And the left: "McCain Still Sucks" and the pithy "Obama--yes!!" We also saw many, many discarded truck tires being used as planters, but that's de rigueur for much of rural America.
And now, a break for a photographic interlude!
Ridin' low in Big Red
So. Southward we drove, leaving the Empire State (isn't it nice how humble New Yorkers are?) and entering the Keystone State (Dear PA: Perhaps it's time to re-think your state nickname?). The farm we sought was outside Mifflinburg, the self-proclaimed Buggy Town, USA. I guess they made a lot of horse carriages there. Or something. We skipped the Carriage Museum in Mifflinburg, so I can't tell you any specifics. Though we did eat lunch at the Carriage Corner Restaurant in Mifflinburg. Let it never be said we have no culture.
Before we could eat lunch, we had to dump this huge load of walnuts that was weighing Big Red down and causing him to overheat. So, into the farmland we drove, in search of Edwin Oberholtzer's farm (Dear Edwin: You have a truly kick-ass name, man. And yes, I am being serious.). The helpful bright yellow "Black Walnut Station" signs pointing the way were of great assistance in finding the farm, which was a tiny farm in a valley with one horse, two geese, chickens, and some goats. It did not look particularly prosperous. Of course, Edwin turned out to be not a crotchety geezer with hair growing out of his ears, as I had pictured him to be, but a wholesome Amish kid who looked about 15 years old but was probably more like 20. So I think he has some time to improve the place.*
When we drove into the farmyard, there were three pick-up trucks in line to dump walnuts, and five guys standing around watching Edwin smash at the walnut hulling machine with a sledgehammer. It was apparently being a bit recalcitrant and required some gentle persuasion. The sledgehammer seemed to subdue the machine, however, which was shortly chewing up walnuts again.
Photographic interlude number 2:
Pop quiz! Is Edwin the man in the suspenders or the cut-off t-shirt and ripped jeans?
So, when it was our turn, A. backed the truck up so the tailgate hung over the hopper a bit. He dumped the feed bags full of walnuts into the hopper. I used my (gloved) hand to sweep the walnuts towards where they dropped onto the belt, being careful to not get my hand caught on the belt, thereby causing my hand to be ripped off and conveyed into the huller with the nuts. Ew.
We ended up with 430 pounds of nuts after hulling. At $10 per hundredweight, that paid for the gas for the trip, which was really all we were hoping for.
A. was covered in black walnut juices, but had uncharacteristically remembered to bring an extra pair of pants. We stopped in the cemetery so he could change his pants. No disrespect intended to the occupants, of course, but it seemed like a better option than stripping down in Edwin's farmyard.
Thus, freshly attired and divested of our great load of nuts, we headed off to seek further adventures in the vast expanse of central Pennsylvania.
But you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out what those adventures are. Yes, it's a Going Country cliffhanger! Isn't this FUN?
Until tomorrow, duckies . . .
* Edwin appeared to be part of a less orthodox Amish sect. Different Amish communities make their own judgments about which modern conveniences might threaten the Amish way of life and are therefore verboten. Edwin had a big John Deere tractor, though with steel wheels so it couldn't be driven on the road. And the walnut machine seemed to use a bit of electricity. But the house didn't appear to have any electricity and there was no car.