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Author Topic: My mini-vacation along PA's abandoned four-lane highways  (Read 689 times)

Mr. Matté

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My mini-vacation along PA's abandoned four-lane highways
« on: September 23, 2019, 11:14:04 PM »

I get chewed out occasionally at work for writing prose/paragraphs in my emails so I'm going to try out this new fangled bullet point to chronologically describe my travels and roadgeek opinions from this past weekend:

Saturday:
  • From my East Windsor, NJ house, I went north up the scenic route through Hunterdon County mostly to clinch the rest of CR 579
    On the descent / hairpin turn into Bloomsbury, I was going at slightly below the speed limit of 30 but was still tailgated in my little Honda Fit by the Escalade through there  :ded:
  • Clinched NJ 122 and took the old US 22 Alt. route through Phillipsburg to the Free Bridge.
  • After passing by my late grandparents' Pocono summer house, I went over to PA 534 to definitively clinch that route. It's signed as part of the Bicycle PA routes but what a lousy road to ride on for cyclists-- narrow lanes, sharp turns (esp. in Hickory Run S.P.), and big steep ascents.
  • To get over to Centralia for my first real stop, I took PA 924 from I-81 and turned onto Ringtown Blvd. and Aristes Road. The Locust Ridge Wind Farm is easily seen from these roads, very nice scenery.
  • One thing I like about my Fit are the paddle shifters to help regulate speed going down those long downgrades rather than constantly tapping/riding the brakes.
  • Obviously would be much better on an electric or hybrid car due to dynamic braking à la trains.
  • I parked at the south end of the former PA 61 section along with plenty of others. I took my "new" (bought used last month) cyclocross bike up the Graffiti Highway, lots of walkers including some families on a Saturday morning but then comes the a-holes on their dirt bikes and ATVs speeding up and down the road.
  • Just about every square inch of the abandoned road is covered with graffiti now. Except for the famous bumps and cracks around the midpoint, the asphalt on the abandoned section seems to be in good shape.
  • No signs of the fire at the surface though I think near the top, I thought I felt some heat on my legs as I was riding up.
  • PennDOT relinquished its ROW along this section not too long ago to a private owner (I think a mine company) but the only signs of it are in the woods near the top with paper "PRIVATE PROPERTY" signs and one PennDOT "NO TRESPASSING" sign at left arrow on PA 61 at the top. No signs at the bottom.
  • Only about four houses and the municipal building are left in the borough. I rode around some of the side streets and through all four corners of the main PA 61/PA 42 intersection. The sign goof with the patched over left arrow for Aristes along Big Mine Run Road is still there.
  • More dirt bike and ATV riders (including one family with younger children, none of whom with helmets) were speeding through the borough including on the grass. I really hope they weren't tearing up the yards of the remaining residents.
  • After returning to my car, I spent the rest of the day at Knoebels where I haven't been in ±15 years. I haven't ridden a roller coaster in about 8 years but luckily they didn't make me sick (though the newer Impulse coaster got me very dizzy). Spent the night in Frackville at a smokey motel (requested a no smoking room, it had 2 ashtrays in it).

Sunday:
  • Got on I-81 south around 8:15 am. Virtually no traffic on the part through the mountains. I haven't been on this road in over a decade so this was probably my first experience on it without the famous PennDOT "SINGLE LANE NEXT XX MILES." Very nice asphalt/concrete roads.
  • After the I-78 merge, traffic picked up more drastically which therefore increased the stupid drivers. Around the north side of Harrisburg, the speed limit drops from 65 to 55 but there's no change in the roadway design standards. PennDOT (typ.)
  • Got on the PA Turnpike at Carlisle. I think it was mentioned on this board before but the Turnpike got rid of those traffic lights downstream of the tollbooths letting you know if your EZPass transponder was read. I really wish they had some kind of acknowledgement at the "slow" tollbooths like the NJ Tpke. that it was read.
  • The straightaway sections between there and the Blue Mountain Tunnel are finished, three lanes each way, and little traffic heading west that morning. Though I set my cruise control around 77-80, there was lots of variability in my revs due to all the rolling hills on that stretch.
  • The tunnel-daylight-tunnel-daylight arrangement at Blue Mountain/Kittatinny screwed up my automatic headlights (at least in the a.m.) causing them to be stuck on after exiting the Kittatinny Tunnel.
  • After long stretches of good pavement, west of the Tuscarora to Fort Littleton, the constant old asphalt-new asphalt patch cycle was particularly annoying.
  • Reached the western parking area for Pike2Bike around 10:15. Took off on the bike from there, the frequency of dick graffiti is high between US 30 and Rays Hill.
  • The old westbound lanes are the best side for most of the way except between the midpoint between the two tunnels and Sideling Hill where the eastbound lanes are slightly better (there was also a downed tree on the WB lanes). Hearing the slight crumble of the pavement whilst riding over the alligator cracked pavement was a very neat sound. I know some sections were repaved due to DOT tests (like the reflector/rumble strip sections) but I wonder if some of the pavement does date back to the 1960s. Near the east end, the surface course of the asphalt was gone but the base course was perfectly sound (much better than some of the roads I regularly ride on around my neck of the woods).
  • I took a short jaunt on Pump Station, North Hess, and Little Egypt Road to see the rest of the abandoned turnpike. Unfortunately the front shifter on my bike broke by this point so I had a little bit of slowness getting up some of those short but steep hills on the way back to the Pike2Bike as it was stuck in "big gear" instead of "granny gear."
  • Had lunch at the Breezewood Hardee's (since we don't have any around NJ) but was on the far western side of the I-70 concurrency, opposite the Turnpike entrance. Due to the short phase timing for US 30 eastbound traffic, it took me at least 5 minutes to get back to the Turnpike from there. My original concept vacation itinerary had me staying overnight in Breezewood and just riding my bike from there to Pike2Bike. Even if the timing would have worked out, I am very glad I didn't. This was the first time I've ever experienced the original Breezewood (though not truly in the sense of an I-70 traveler) but now I see why people hate it.
  • All of the gas prices in Breezewood at midday Sunday were all $2.859 but the Sideling Hill Plaza was $2.819 so I filled up there. I prepaid in cash, but once completed, I thought I needed the receipt from the pump to be able to get change. The pump didn't spit out a receipt so I was almost ready to blow a stack for spending $50 for a ±$20 fill up. Luckily they had the info inside so I got my change no issues. I remarked "This is why I love living in Jersey" and got a laugh out of the clerk there.
  • Exiting the plaza, I had a flashback to the previous day's ride at Knoebels Haunted Mansion with a box truck entering the plaza to my right and seeing the front of a truck where I normally don't see one.
  • On the way back, I did an intentional detour to clinch PA 581 and I-83 north of there. This weekend was the same weekend the PA Turnpike eastbound was closed at US 15 for a bridge replacement but I don't think I mingled with that detour traffic any.
  • I hate I-78 and its drivers. That's all I'll say.

I don't have much on-road photos but plenty from Centralia, Knoebels, and the Abandoned PA Turnpike. Let me know if there's anything you want to see and I'll see if I can get you a pic. I thought I wouldn't ramble on doing the list format but I did anyway.  :)
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TravelingBethelite

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Re: My mini-vacation along PA's abandoned four-lane highways
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2019, 08:55:38 PM »

Very late reply...but an excellent write-up. Makes your mini-trip sound like a whole adventure.
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J3ebrules

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Re: My mini-vacation along PA's abandoned four-lane highways
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2019, 11:03:05 PM »

I definitely think you should post some Centralia/Abandoned PA pics - I live in Jersey as well, and my bf and I have been dying to go visit both. You should at least post some of your best pics from the trip here!
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Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike - they’ve all come to look for America! (Simon & Garfunkel)

Mr. Matté

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J3ebrules

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Re: My mini-vacation along PA's abandoned four-lane highways
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2019, 05:36:18 PM »

Wow. Not sure why, but your picture of the tunnels are the first to make me realize how tiny they were. Traffic would have been brutal now. One lane each way...
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Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike - they’ve all come to look for America! (Simon & Garfunkel)

 


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