Our first great a-venture trip to Pennsylvania was a journey of homes for me. My childhood home, my college home, and the home my parents chose for empty nest life. We would get to build memories at each of these homes before heading through the southern United States back to our own home in Las Vegas.
Our first stop was at my parents house, located near Harrisburg, PA.
We setup the a-frame trailer in their driveway. My parents thought the camper was neat (as most people usually do) and we showed it around to a few neighbors who came over to see the oddity as well.
We enjoyed our time at my parents, sitting on the back porch and "visiting," as you do. Going out on the pontoon boat, making dinner together, and generally just enjoying our time with each other.
During one of the days, a mid-day summer rain helped us discover that the a-frame windows were leaking. We hopped on Amazon, ordered 3M window seal tape to fix the leak, having it sent to Russ’s mom’s house where we would be in a few days. More on that later.
From their driveway, we took off to my home town to visit my sister and her boyfriend, my brother and his wife, and to meet their twin daughters - my nieces - for the first time. Russ drove the camper while I drove my parents in their car. There was a warm Pennsylvania drizzle as we departed, but for the most part, the weather was rather reasonable.
Heading down the Pennsylvania turnpike, I get a call from Russ.
The air vent had popped open while he was driving 70 mph down the highway.
We exited at the nearest exit and took a look. Maybe one of us forgot to latch it, maybe the wind just pulled it up, but either way, the arm that lifts the vent lid was bent out of shape and the fan wasn’t latching.
Fortunately, we had plenty of duck tape to keep the lid in place for the rest of the journey, although neither of us loved the visual addition of the silver tape against our new tan and brown trailer.
Better than losing the fan cover, though.
The rain become an unrelenting downpour as we were pulling in to my home town. We couldn’t see more than four feet ahead of us and spent the last dozen or so miles inching our way through deepening rivers where roads used to be.
We finally reached my sister's house and the small parking area in front where she lived. My brother and his truck were already parked. He leaned in to the truck and asked Russ, “Should I back up?” We waved him off and pulled the Tacoma and the a-frame smoothly into place across the driveway.
We went inside and met the newest members of the family. Nothing in life is cuter than tiny little twins, after all.
After a few hours together, holding and playing with the first grandkids of the family, it was time for the littles to make their way back home. My brother began packing up the truck.
A moment later, he walks in the living room and asks... “You know how you asked you if I should move my car?”
my heart dropped...
The three-inch gash across my brother’s front bumper told us we had miscalculated something.
I guess we didn’t have the clearance to pass him.
We scanned the side of the trailer. A half-ripped out rivet in the stub that holds the a-frame door open told the tale of a trailer pulled just a little too close to a parked truck.
We offered, repeatedly, to pay for a new bumper. But my brother works on cars for a hobby. He already had everything he needed at home to make the repair, and wasn’t all that worried about it. He assured us, he’d be able to fix it. Still, we felt awful.
I know I’ll be hearing about this one for many, many years now…
Not wanting to say goodbye, we begrudgingly took a few more photos, kissed and hugged everyone, and packed out for the night. Russ and I stayed in a hotel that night, leaving the trailer hitched on the truck and locked in the parking lot. The dogs don’t love hotels, but found their typical spots laying next to the bed or, for the lab, in the bathroom.
In the morning, we ate breakfast with my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend and then went through another round of hugs and kisses with my parents.
As it was on our way to our next stop, we decided to visit Flight 93 National Memorial with my sister and her boyfriend.
The site is the crash of the fourth plane hijacked in the 9/11 attacks. It is a solemn memorial situated in the beautiful hills of the Appalachian Mountains.
We stopped first at the visitors center. The small space is filled with displays containing shrapnel and partially-charred personal items recovered from the crash site, now artifacts of history. Pictures of the victims and plaques detailing their lives and stories. A line of telephones connects you to their voices as they called 911 and loved ones. TVs replay the news covered of the day.
A tree-lined path leads you from the visitor centers to the memorial wall dedicated to the victims, which overlooks the actual crash site, long since reclaimed by nature. We walk the length of the walls, noting the names, pausing to reflect on their story, and observing mementos left here and there.
With the only sound coming from the breeze and nearby songbirds, the memorial is peaceful, its history evident in only the enhancements made to commemorate the crash and the lives that perished on that day.
From the memorial, Russ and I made our way to see his family, our final destination on this part of the journey.
Gas, coffee, hit the highway. Three hours later and we’re in what I consider my second hometown, Washington, PA, in the beautiful hills of Western Pennsylvania. Even though I went to college about a half hour’s drive away, I spent a lot of time in Washington, since that’s where Russ and our friends were from. Over the years, it’s become another home to me.
Pennsylvania is beautiful during that time of year. The sun and rain showers bring out the colors like no other time of year. In recent years, the heat and humidity runs just shy of too hot.
We were fortunate that a friend let us (and the dogs) crash in his house while we were in town. After six days tucked away in the camper, we appreciated being in a housed and getting to stretch out a bit.
Our visit was spent catching up with friends and family, taking the dogs on walks around the neighborhood, and checking off our favorite places to eat. Russ's nephew graduated high school. The dogs got to play (and dig) in real grass.
We also got to watch the Pittsburgh Penguins play in Stanley Cup Playoffs with our friends and celebrated with a miniature chocolate Stanley Cup we picked up at Sarris Chocolates, a must-see if you're ever in the Pittsburgh area.
It was almost time to hit the road again. On our last day, we popped up the camper and got to checking over things and taping the windows with the 3M window sealing tape we’d ordered earlier from my parent's house.
Available on Amazon: 3M window sealing tape
The task would have been much easier if we hadn’t had to fend off hundreds off the summer’s visitors - cicadas from a particularly large 17-year brood. They are gentle creatures, but definitely creepy when they land on you, and it was truly a remarkable year for them. We have cicadas in Vegas, and I grew up in PA, but the sheer number and size of the cicadas that year were truly unsettling.
However, the process was incredibly straightforward. You put the tape over the seams, take off the top plastic, and give it a little squish down. That's it. Much easier than caulk and it's ready to go right away, no need to cure, and it works great. It took about 10 minutes total and we were ready to roll.
We did a supply check, loaded in our suitcases, and popped the a-frame down for one last night.
The next morning, we bought ice for the coolers, rounded up our maps, coffee, and dogs, and hit the road for part three of our journey: the trip back to the home-we-chose, Las Vegas.