This past weekend I meandered my way through Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties
Last weekend, I found myself in a rare situation.
After waking up and taking Callie for a nice long walk around White Mills, I sat down to breakfast and realized I had nothing on my schedule.
No family events.
No sporting events.
No pressing duties around the house.
Hmm. What to do?
As I sat there in my kitchen chomping on a second bowl of Apple Jacks, the answer actually came quickly.
Several destinations leapt to mind, but were quickly dismissed. Finally, while washing the breakfast dishes, the answer revealed itself...
On the Road
Jack Kerouac was one of my favorite writers during my college years.
While just about everyone I knew at school had read “On the Road,” I became Kerouac-obsessed, devouring everything I could find.
My two favorites were “The Dharma Bums” and “Big Sur.” The former is charming and almost naive in its positive outlook on life. The latter is just about as dark a book as you'll ever find, describing in terrifying detail a nervous breakdown brought on by advanced alcoholism.
I mention Kerouac because those two books in particular played a key role in my choice of destination on Saturday.
It's easy to find copies of “On the Road” because it has attained legendary status as a kind of Beat or Hipster spiritual road trip guide. However, finding lesser known Kerouac books can be a challenge.
Many years ago, an old friend told me about this amazing bookstore in downtown Stroudsburg. I'd never even heard of it, but her description immediately got my attention.
Carroll & Carroll Booksellers is located at 740 Main Street and it's everything you could possibly want in a family-owned business.
George and Lisa Carroll are passionate about what they do and it shows. There are books quite literally stacked right up to the ceiling. They overflow from the shelves onto the floor and right up to the door.
The selection of new and used books is nothing short of astonishing … which is why I visited in the first place. Not only did they have every Jack Kerouac book, but the Carrolls were able to recommend other writers in the same vein.
I have George and Lisa to thank for gently nudging me toward Charles Bukowski, John Fante and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Carroll & Carroll has something for everyone. They stock the latest in best sellers, along with a huge selection of used books of every genre imaginable.
Make your selection, settle down in one of the overstuffed wing chairs and lose yourself in a magical world. Not a bad way to spend a summer afternoon!
Over the years, I've developed a little routine when making this trip.
My first rule is no highways. I stay on 191 the whole way. Granted, it's a longer drive, but making the best time really isn't the point, is it?
I depart from White Mills, travel through Honesdale and on to Lake Ariel. I cruise through the Hamlin intersection and wind my way deep into southern Wayne, clipping Pike and eventually emerging from this wooded wilderness in Monroe County.
Sirius Channel 32 (The Bridge) provides the perfect soundtrack for my little adventure. Along the way, I sing along with the likes of Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and the Eagles.
After spending an hour or so making my book selections, I bid my hosts farewell stroll down Main Street. I make it as far as the Sherman Theater (Air Supply and Social Distortion on the same bill?!) before finally walking back to Flood's
There, I sit in the same dark, corner booth. I order a drink and appetizer, then unpack my newly-purchased treasures and start reading.
Flood's has quite the reputation as a “college bar,” but during the day it's a perfect place to settle in and enjoy a leisurely lunch.
And, speaking of college towns...
Back to School
When my son was in college at DeSales University in Center Valley, I'd visit him several times each semester.
On the way down, I'd take the most efficient route (generally speaking, whatever directions Siri gave me!). On the way home, though, I jumped off the major highways onto 191 as soon as possible.
Not only was the drive home more leisurely and less stressful, it allowed me time to relax and enjoy the rural Pennsylvania scenery.
For my money, there's nothing like winding your way through farm country with the windows down and the breeze blowing through your hair.
Granted, taking 191 all the way back to Honesdale added at least 15 minutes to my travel time. But, hey: sometimes Siri just doesn't understand the value of a calm, quiet drive through the countryside.
Interestingly enough, PA Rte 191 was commissioned back in 1961 for the express purpose of connecting the Lehigh Valley the Poconos.
It began in Center Valley (home of DeSales!) and ran all the way to the New York state line at Hancock, a total of nearly 112 miles.
The original route has been adjusted a number of times to accommodate newer and bigger highways, but 191 remains one of the most scenic and popular byways in NEPA.
My journey this time around proved equal parts nostalgia and optimism.
I love wandering through little towns like Analomink, La Anna, Mountainhome and Paradise Valley. They are such picturesque places and I always find myself imagining the lives of those who live there.
That part of the trip is fun, but it's also tempered with the occasional bitter taste of reality. For every success story like the Newfoundland Hotel, there are a couple of crumbling edifices like Penn Hills and the Sterling Inn.
By the time I'm back in White Mills, melancholy has set in. While I'm happy to be home and excited to dive into my new books (four for a total of $38), I am also haunted by some of the images I've seen.
Rte. 191 will always be one of my all-time favorite roads. Unfortunately, I can clearly see that it's role as a major link between the Lehigh Valley and Poconos has greatly diminished.
No matter. This trip hammered home something I've suspected for some time.
Some folks these days are far too busy and in too much of a hurry. We want to “get there” as quickly as possible. We forget that oftentimes in this life, the journey itself is the most important thing.