To Trout Run PA, mile 257.

Ours was a room with a view this morning. The sun was glinting on the water and filtering through the trees. Tom was up with the lark, but it was all Philippa and I could do to drag ourselves out of bed. For the first time in months I woke up without a list in my head, and I felt drunk with sleep. We had breakfast outside in the cool morning air and it felt good to be the three of us with no pressures. We did however have to catch the 11.20 ferry to Millersburg, which left about forty feet from where we were parked.

There has been a ferry crossing the Susquahanna here since 1825. Its very, very slow clearly because it is only a mile across but I guess it will get there eventually. Poor quality jokes aside, the ferry is rather a nice old thing with a paddle wheel at the back and room for three cars. It takes about twenty minutes to cross to Millersburg, which also has a railway line running through it so was clearly quite the  crossroads once upon a time. Now though it has an air of faded Victorian prosperity about it. Handsome houses with broad porches and rocking chairs, but peeling paint and the odd cracked window. Properties were being foreclosed on Main Street and  a local couple looked doubtful when we asked if there was anywhere that we could get a cup of coffee. “Maria’s might be open I guess….”. Maria’s was open (though I was drawn to Millersburger for the humour factor). It started to rain so we ducked in and ordered an early lunch. Huge salads for me and her, and spaghetti with a fat meatball for him. Delicious food in faded surroundings. When the rain eased I nipped into Millersburg Hardware across the street for some brackets and rivets and other such things for fitting the valances for the blinds. The old boy who ran the place was a Far Side Cartoon with high waisted shorts, a tall baseball cap and silky grey-blond hair. He was friendly and helpful and found everything I needed, but the ferry back was about to appear so we headed back to the dock, only to see it chugging back to the other side without us. Ah well.

We sat and waited under the trees with crickets beginning to sing around us. We opened the big white door at the ferry l anding so the ferry captain could see through his binoculars that we needed a ride and twenty minutes later he was heading back to us.

It was a grand little trip and nice to see Pennsylvania’s oldest transport company hanging in there. But it was an echo of what it had once been; a paddle wheel ferry crossing from nowhere, to once-was.

Big white storks watched us pass, and the shell-strewn bottom of the river was just a couple of feet below. An older lady on the outward journey said she and her friends used to swim across years ago and hang out on the beach at a picnic place (long before the campsite existed). The ferry would come and pick them up for a nickel.

We were overdue for leaving our camping space and a couple of fishermen had already started moving in, joking about where they would send the bill for our late departure.

Soon we were back on the road. A shorter trip today, with a stop for groceries and gas. Filling up, I was stopped by no less than four people to talk about Harvey. The first was a biker who said he had always admired the GMCs and then thanked me sincerely for Britain’s role in Afghanistan. The chap in the bay next to him then wanted to know about it and a middle aged lady appeared beside me as I was checking the oil to ask whether GMC had just started making them! Her husband came over – they had an RV themselves – and he was very excited about seeing it. “I just read an article about them and never thought I would actually see one on the road.” Harv the celebrity.

The drive up to Trout Run was easy and smooth. The road curled up along the riverside and then through forested hills to where we are now; a broad meadow with a very friendly campsite owner and just the occasional passing truck on the main road to break the silence. There are swimming holes nearby apparently so maybe we will try one tomorrow. Tom is very excited about the whole thing and very affectionate. I asked him about his day and he said “sometimes you can have things which are so bad you want to cry, or so good you want to burst, but today was just an ordinary nice day”.

Author: Richard Lister

Chasing horizons...

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