Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Navigator’s Log, Earth Date 2009.07.25, Saturday

After not getting back until well after 1:30 AM Friday night and then enjoying a little post-Dave lovin’, we slept in a little late on Saturday. Luckily the only agenda we had was getting to Centralia, PA, a place where the term ‘light a fire under your ass’ should be the town motto for its literal and figurative irony. Well, a motto for what is left of the town anyway.

Just as a little background here is an excerpt from the website offroaders.com that details some of the history behind this little town:

The story began sometime in 1962 along the outskirts of town when trash was burned in the pit of an abandoned strip mine, which connected to a coal vein running near the surface. The burning trash caught the exposed vein of coal on fire…The coal then began to burn underground…Over 47 years and 40 million dollars later the fire still burns through old coal mines and veins under the town and the surrounding hillsides on several fronts.

After reading this information our desire to explore the town arose about two years ago, so when the concert date appeared, the day two trip to Centralia was set. (I should probably explain this is the real reason for sketchy motel, the town we stayed in was about halfway between Hershey and Centralia.)

We got to the “center” of town and realized we must have passed the entrance to the closed road somewhere a way’s back. So we doubled back and found the seven foot high dirt berm at the end of the “highway”, located a walking path around it and started out trek up the road.

Here are a couple photos from the road. Walking up it I commented to Matt that I felt like we were in that movie I Am Legend due to the peculiar quiet due to a complete lack of people and the fact that we were walking right down the middle of one lane of a former four lane divided highway; it was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had.

That crack in the road as well as the fall of the sink on the shoulder (about 2-3 feet) is due to the underground fire. Unfortunately the photos didn’t pick it up but there was actually steam rising from the crack.

Once we finished our couple mile round trip hike back to the car with photos and video in hand we headed back to the town center. On the way there we turned left up another gravel street only to come upon some of the largest sinkholes I have ever seen. Vegetation was scarce and the fire was still burning. Here is a shot of me feeling the heat of the steam rising from a “vent”. Imagine a boiling pasta pot. It was also just as humid as your kitchen gets after that pot boils away for about an hour.

Nothing in town looked like the photos online from offroaders. I don’t know when they took theirs but about 80% of what they have up doesn’t even exist anymore. I think it was even weirder to see stairs leading up from a sidewalk only to end at wildflower filled fields than it would have been to see the formerly existing boarded up homes.

Here is a typical shot from town. If you didn’t know any better it would look like nothing more than a country road. Being there, and seeing that every street in the town’s original grid looks the same as this, is eerie.

So we could only spend just so long soaking up toxic levels of carbon monoxide and since we had seen this cool wind farm from the highway on the way in we said “get me there” and took off to find it. On the way, as per usual we stumbled across some amazing scenery.

And in the long standing tradition of our travels, I am the one to snap any shots of us together. I didn’t do too badly this time; usually I tend to scalp him to about mid forehead.

Because we always tend to find just what we are looking for, the Locust Ridge Wind Farm presented itself in grand fashion. Here is a shot of me standing about 300 yards in front of the base of one of them. Matt was about 100 feet away from me in order to get the full height of the spinning turbines. If you want more on this story check out my other blog Green Leaf Reviewer.

We quickly buzzed back down to Hershey after this just to get a few photos I was unable to snap the night before but then after so much walking, excitement and fume inhalation we were both beat. I suggested that when one is in Pennsylvania they should acclimate themselves to the local customs so we grabbed a Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza and cinnamon sticks and headed back to the hotel to have dinner and crash with some cheezy cable.

After we ate there was a pretty intense thunderstorm that passed by with lots of excellent lightning that we sat out in front of the motel to watch. We must have been wearing our “hi we’re nice, approachable people” signs because a kid sitting in a chair down the way came over to ask Matt if he could bum a smoke.

And then instead of leaving like most people would, he plunked down on the ground right next to me and proceeded to tell us all about his having been fired that morning, the pit bull bite he had gotten Monday that was getting redder by the day and how he was just forced out of his former living situation but that his girlfriend’s mother would not let him move in. I felt for the kid, really, because we’ve all been in tough spots in our lives, but my intuition kicked in as soon as he walked over and I knew he was going to ask for money.

I wished I had some, in fact I wished I had a lot because I would have sent the kid to school to learn something so he could achieve a better life for himself but as it was we carried almost no cash on our trip since pretty much everywhere but the parking lot at the show takes a debit card these days. So when it started to down pour and we were heading back in he asked if we had a dollar, it was not a lie that we didn’t.

About a half hour later there was a knock at the door that (begrudgingly) woke Matt up from his nap and it was (unsurprisingly) our new friend asking to bum a couple more smokes for his walk down and back up the hill the following morning. I later commented that I was happy at least he didn't ask for a ride because that I will not do, not in these crazy times. Matt obliged with cigarettes and we then shut out the outside world altogether until the following day.


Bridgete said...

Wow. That town sounds really cool, but definitely eerie. Crazy.

Almost Precious said...

Nice photos, especially the one with both you and Matt. Centralia,what an unusual place! Who would have thought that underground coal could burn like that and for so long a time? Guess there must be enough air pockets and ventilation to fuel the combustion.
Too bad. Can imagine it must have been a quaint little town, once upon a time.

pastrywitch said...

the town is creepy, but your new 'do looks fabulous!

spottedwolf said...

"scalp him to mid forehead" ??!! OMFG, Matt...RUN BOY!! RUUUNNNN!!

well at least she doesn't chop off the 'gear'...whew!!!

Bree said...

Wow, I mean...wow. A 47 year underground fire, that's amazing. I totally want to go there. The pics are beyond creepy!

Tabitha Bird said...

That scenery is beautiful! Great pictures, thanks for sharing.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

The town was so quiet on some of the backroads. If it wasn't for the new rt. 61 you would have thought it was the literal middle of nowhere. Matt also just read somewhere they expect it to burn another 250 years minimum and that it could cause similar damage to the neighboring town of Ashland as it spreads. We might go back this fall & get "before" shots of Ashland. Go now before its gone!

Thanks Kate, I wish it looked like that everyday :-)

lol Dennis!

Rosebud Collection said...

I love the picture of the two of you.So darn cute...You sure were having a fun time and didn't waste a minute from the looks of things.

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Good thing you aren't still off the butts, at least you could share those with your new "friend"!

Looks like a great time. See detail comments on the photos in FB.

Love ya, Mum

Chris Stone said...

That's an amazing story! I'll have to check it out sometime.

ginger said...

you are so adorable! the both of you! okay, that said...that town looks spooky weird. cool stuff.

i'm also happy that kid didn't force you to get froggy on him.