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Weekend Warrior: Go West

Go West! To Western Pennsylvania, that is. Chester and I started our journey to Lake City, PA after rush hour on Friday morning. It was part one of a 4-day affair.

Friday, May 5

It’s raining, it’s pouring but a girl still needs her coffee. We stop at Davy’s Hot Dogs in Mount Arlington, a kitschy-styled Swiss chalet, just off I-80.

Chester’s playlists bring us back memories of our teen and college years and we swap stories in the car.

We stop in Danville, PA for lunch at the Old Forge Brewing Company on Mill Street. New Yorkers will understand my shock at the cost of metered parking — 1 hour and 40 minutes for 25 cents!

I fall in love with the beer steins. Sadly, they are only available to members of the Pub Club. I may have to come back in November for the open enrollment period.

The highway is filled with semis and trucks, and us, of course. At one point we drive alongside a military convoy led by a camouflaged humvee. At a rest stop, we spot a specialized mitt for pumping diesel; it reminds me there are niche products and industries I know nothing about.

One thing you should know is that Chester, having made this trip a couple of dozen times over his life, is all about minimizing drive time. If you know anything about me, I’m all about the journey and what you can discover along the way. Luckily, our bladders are on the same clock.

We stop at The Glass Blowing Center in Hillard, PA, where we meet the proprietors Tom and Elaine Doner. Tom shares how he fell in love with the art of glass blowing after visiting an art fair. Self-taught he walks us through the steps to create a seamless work of art, a glass dolphin garden stick. If you are traveling with the kids this summer, consider adding them to your driving itinerary.

Next stop: Cleveland. (Yes, you read that right.)

Chester’s Uncle Bill was traveling from San Francisco to attend Sunday’s family event, and we are his transport to PA. Unfortunately, we find out that his United flight has been delayed. We amuse ourselves with a cool exhibit about Superman at Cleveland-Hopkins airport, followed by dinner at the Sheraton.

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We finally made it to Lake City (a suburb of Erie), PA at 11:30 PM

Saturday, May 6

It’s a blustery day filled with wind and rain when we set off to explore Lake City and surrounding areas with Chester’s family.

First stop: Peggy Gray’s Candies.

The Holliday family has been making high-quality European-style chocolates for Western Pennsylvania since 1922. In addition to chocolate, they sell old-time candies and salt water taffy, brands like Black Cow and Charleston Chews, among others remind me of my childhood.

We stop at the tributary where Crooked Creek empties into Lake Erie. I marvel at the tumultuous, rolling waves. It looks so much like the ocean.

Chester, his aunts, and uncles used to spend summers by the lake and they share stories of the summer cottage. It’s now been sold but we drive by for a visit.

The rest of the day is spent exploring Erie’s consignment shops and the Salvation Army. Back at the house, we have lunch, then dinner engaging in lively conversation with his extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Sunday, May 7

We wake to a sunny and beautiful day with all the flowers alive and in bloom. Chester takes me on a tour of the “back forty” behind the house and barn, everything smells of spring. The grass seems to go on forever. First I hear, and then I see the creek at the edge of the property. An abundance of nature.

And then there’s the barn, a true sampling of Americana, right here in Lake City, PA.

Late afternoon we make our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral in Erie, where Chester’s stepmom Dorthy will be ordained as a deacon.

The day ends with a celebratory dinner with friends and family at the Colony Pub & Grille, followed by “the best chocolate cake in Arizona” prepared by Aunt Carol and some ice cream back at the house.

Monday, May 8

Monday comes too soon, and before we know it we’re all saying our goodbyes, and back on the road home toward home.

 

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Chester’s family photo on the back forty, Lake City, PA