Day 25:

Public doc – Annapolis, MD

The weather was much nicer when I woke up on day 25, so I decided to head back to Main Street to have breakfast and walk the docks one more time before moving on. I had heard a lot of about Chick & Ruth’s Delly and their amazing crab omelets, so of course I had to try it. The restaurant was located right on the main strip, and it didn’t look like anything special, but from what I’ve seen those tend to be the best places. I ordered the crab and cheese omelet, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It was like the best crab cake filling you’ve ever had inside of an omelet served with fried potatoes and house baked toast. I could have eaten that for breakfast every day.

Annapolis, MD
Chick & Ruth’s Delly – Annapolis, MD

After I had the most amazing breakfast, it was time to head towards D.C. It wasn’t too far from Annapolis, and I had tons I wanted to see there. Before heading into the city, though, I had to do laundry at an ever so glamorous laundromat. When it came to putting away my laundry, though, I didn’t want to do it in a very public place, so I went to a nice empty park to fold my clothes. When you start to romanticize life on the road, I want you to picture me sitting in the parking lot of a park in the suburbs of Maryland folding my clothes. It has its incredible moments, but there are plenty of the less picturesque moments, too.

Once the chores were done, I got back on the road to the capitol. It was about what I expected when I got there: tall buildings, traffic, people, and awful parking. The parking was a bit worse than I expected it to be, and was far more expensive than I wanted to spend. We’re talking $7hr for meter parking in some areas. It started to get really stressful after a while of not being able to find anywhere to pull over. After talking to a friend that lives in the city, it was decided I would just drive past the White House and then come back on a separate trip without a car. This is one of those places, like NYC, that you visit when you don’t have a car to deal with and can just take public transit. I wasn’t expecting it to be as bad as it was.

Freshly made bed

When I got right by the White House, though, the reason for the unusually bad traffic was revealed. My incredible timing had landed me in D.C. on the day that the impeachment trials for Trump began. It’s a little hard to keep up with current events out here, so I didn’t know that was happening that day until I saw the marching crowd of protesters. They were carrying signs, chanting “shame on Trump,” and marching down the street in front of the White House. At one point they even blocked the road and prevented traffic from moving (not that it was moving very much to begin with). At that point I was pretty done and just wanted out of the city. Maybe I could come back when there wasn’t a major protest happening…

Yeah, it wasn’t easy getting out of the city. It was pretty much gridlocked. It took me an hour to just go a couple of miles, and then that landed me on the interstate during rush hour. I just wanted to get out of major population, so I had plans to drive a little ways to find some quiet, but that was proving to be quite a challenge. Luckily Joseph was kind enough to keep me company on the phone throughout the process. The poor thing had to listen to me yell, cuss, and have a couple of small breakdowns. Finally I made it onto free interstate after a couple of hours of driving and was home free towards my next destination.

As you can imagine, being in traffic for so long I wasn’t able to get out of my car at all. I really had to go to the bathroom, like bad. I finally saw what I believed to be my saving grace: a Shell station. I turned onto the street that I thought would take me right to it, but it actually ended up being an exit onto another interstate heading in the complete opposite direction from where I needed to go. I was delirious, stressed, and tired at this point, so I snapped. Like, not in an angry way, but in a hysterical laughter that lasted for several minutes and resulted in laughter induced tears. After the laughter subsided, I just heard the concerned voice of Joseph on the other line asking about my well-being. To be quite honest, I don’t think it was too great in that moment. Finally, though, I managed to make it back to that Shell station, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved.

Not too much further away was my home for the night: a Planet Fitness. When I arrived, I wasn’t thrilled with the area. I didn’t feel safe at all there, so I knew I couldn’t stay. The next closest one was about an hour away, so after several hours of driving, I still had further to go. It was alright, though, because when I arrived I was able to really work out my frustrations in the gym. So, I guess the moral of this whole story is to check the news before you go to the capitol of our nation.

Day 24:

Annapolis, MD

It was a cold and rainy day, so what better time to make my way into the sailing capitol of the world? Clearly not the best weather for setting sail, but it wasn’t so bad for exploring Annapolis, Maryland. When I arrived it was pretty cold and windy, but as soon as I entered the city I could tell it was somewhere I would like. It definitely had the look and feel of a typical port city. The streets were lined with unique English style storefronts outfitted with pubs, shops, and offices. Right in the middle of town was the city dock that was lined with row after row of sailboats. It wasn’t the nicest weather to walk around in, so after driving around for a bit I decided to visit the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

Annapolis, MD

The museum is located in the Eastport section of Annapolis and offers free admission. Contrary to what I was expecting, the museum focused mainly on the oyster industry history in the area and the conservation efforts that are being taken now to repopulate the Chesapeake Bay with oysters. It was a really enjoyable stop, though, because I got to learn about the oyster police. Yes, that used to be a real thing, and they had cannons. Along with the main museum, there is also a small art gallery off to the side that features a rotating collection of local art. The museum doesn’t take a whole lot of time to explore in its entirety, but it was a great pastime while the weather wasn’t the nicest.

By the time I left the museum the weather had cleared up a bit, so I decided to make my way back to main street and walk around for a bit. Parking on the main strip is really difficult to come by, and it’s meter parking. However, within a short walking distance is residential parking that is free, but it is a two hour max. That worked out just fine for me, though. I’m not a huge shopper, so I was able to breeze through most of the shops on the strip pretty quickly while still taking in the scenery. I think my favorite shop had to be the Spice & Tea Exchange of Annapolis. As soon as I walked in I was completely engulfed in the potent scents of dozens of different spices, teas, sugars, candles, etc. I ended up buying some teas that smelled good enough to eat. After a bit of shopping, I was getting peckish, so I decided to stop into Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls for, well, a lobster roll. I got the classic roll which was chilled lobster tossed in lemon butter served on a warm bun. It was pretty fantastic, I must say.

KA-CHUNK! Records – Annapolis, MD

A couple of blocks away from Main Street was another nice street called Maryland Avenue. It first caught my attention because I saw a music store on google maps, but when I got there I was also greeted with a coffee shop, book store, vintage shops, and a couple of restaurants. It wasn’t as busy as Main Street, but there was still plenty to explore, so I parked up and set out on foot. First off I spent a long time perusing the rows of vinyl at KA-CHUNK! Records. They had an incredibly vast collection of albums from artists old and new, so there was definitely something for everyone. Once I was able to pull myself away, I headed down the street to Old Fox Books & Coffeehouse. You guessed it, they’re a book store and coffee shop. It had the coziest atmosphere with brick walls, couches, and every nook and cranny filled with books. Be sure to not miss out on the downstairs portion of the shop where the book store continues down a spiral staircase. After ordering myself a delicious chai latte and browsing through the shelves of books for a while, I decided it was probably a good time to head to the gym before it got too terribly late.

Old Fox Books & Coffeehouse – Annapolis, MD

Day 23:

Dover, DE

Originally I didn’t have major plans of venturing all the way into Delaware, but since my plans had been cut severely short, I decided I would. First thing I decided I would visit is the current capitol of Delaware, Dover. When I first made my way into the city, I stopped on one of the streets to check out a couple of shops, but as soon as I got out of my car I was approached by a man attempting to get my attention. I felt incredibly threatened, so needless to say I didn’t stay in that area too long. However, it was one of those situations that could have happened in any city, so I didn’t feel like it represented the city too well, so I ventured on to the historic district to see some of the old buildings and museums. This area was much nicer, and I didn’t have any issues there.

It was Monday, and many of the museums were closed that day, but luckily the first state house was open. It was free to tour the state house, and luckily there was a really nice guide there to show me around. After leaving there I walked around the historic green where all of the buildings and museums were located. I missed out on one of the local walking tours by just a few minutes, but the First State Heritage Park’s John Bell House offers free walking tours of the historic green with history about Dover, so it’s probably worth checking out.

Rehoboth Beach, DE
Rehoboth Beach, DE

After exploring the historic district a bit more, I decided I would head to the beach. About an hour away was Rehoboth Beach, so I made the short trek there and immediately headed to Gordons Pond State Park. It was Veteran’s Day, so entrance to the parks were free. It was a bit chilly, but definitely nothing unbearable. However, it did feel a bit weird walking around on the beach fully clothed in boots and a jacket. I certainly wasn’t the only one though. People were out flying kites, having picnics, and just enjoying the weather. It was like a normal day on the beach except for very little visible skin.

Rehoboth boardwalk, DE

Once I had a good bit of time in the sand, I headed down to the boardwalk to get in a nice walk. It seemed almost like a ghost town. While there were still several people about, everything was closed because it was the off season. Row after row of store fronts were shut down with signs saying they were closed for the season, and the normally active boardwalk games and lights were turned off and abandon until the warm weather hit again. I think I almost prefer that, though. It was far less crowded, and most of the people there were locals. My favorite thing about the beach is the scenery, anyway, so I was fine with not being able to get in the water or being surrounded by screaming children.

Rehoboth Beach, DE

Before the sun set for the evening, I wanted to go on the hunt for a lighthouse. After a quick google search, I headed out to the Cape Henlopen State Park to find the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse. The way it appeared on google maps I was afraid that it would be too far out to see it from shore, but that wasn’t the case at all. As soon as I walked over the dunes of the beach, I was greeted with by the lovely sight of a light house, sailboat, and stunning sunset in the backdrop. It was truly something out of a movie. I spent a good while walking along the shore taking in the view. Being from Alabama, that’s definitely not something I get to see every day, so it had a sense of majesty to it. There were only a couple of other people out on the shore at the time, and they were all photographers with big expensive cameras, and here I was with my iPhone. It did the trick though, because it would be really difficult to get a bad shot of that scene.

Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse, DE

After an exhausting day of history and gorgeous scenery, I decided I should reward myself with some good food. Ever since I decided that my trip would be shorter than planned, I’ve gone a bit wild with the eating out. Food is a huge part of traveling, though, so it’s fine. Plus, I had a lot less time that I was trying to spread my money out over, and I would have extra time to work and recoup what I spent when I got back. At least that’s how I’ve justified all of the food. I don’t regret it, though, because I had New England clam chowder and fish & chips for dinner. Unfortunately there was no gym around for me to work off the grease, so I headed to the Walmart down the road to get ready for the evening.

Day 22:

Delaware Art Museum – Wilmington, DE

The night before I had stayed pretty close to the Pennsylvania/Delaware border, so when I got up on Sunday I made the rest of the drive to Wilmington, Delaware. It was only about an hour from where I was, so it gave me the chance to wake up and look slightly less like a zombie before visiting the Delaware Art Museum. Admission is free on Sundays, so I was definitely all over that. Their exhibits ranged from Victorian era portrait work to late 20th century abstracts and everything in between. With two floors of galleries, it was definitely worth the visit.

Delaware Contemporary- Wilmington, DE

Afterwards I was going to visit the nearby Brandywine Zoo, but quite frankly, I wasn’t feeling the zoo that day. Since I had no one else to please or ask, I just decided to move on to the Delaware Contemporary. More art, of course. The Delaware Contemporary is a small non-profit art museum that displays contemporary abstract work. Admission is always free, and it’s right by the popular river walk, so it was a great stop. When I arrived there was a new installation in progress and a vintage photoshoot going on, so it’s a very lively and active place. They even have pieces and goods that are made locally for sell in their gift shop. It’s definitely somewhere I would want to visit again in the future to see what new changes they make.

Riverwalk – Wilmington, DE

Once I had had my fill of art for the day, I made my way down to the ever popular river walk. The weather was beautiful, and there were tons of people out for bike rides and jogs. The whole walk is one mile one way, so I made the full walk down and back which came out to about two miles. There were tons of little docks and benches to sit and enjoy the river scenery, and many delicious looking restaurants if you get hungry during your trek. It wasn’t overly exciting since it was a Sunday, but it still made for a really pleasant walk.

New Castle, DE

I enjoyed Wilmington, but I didn’t really want to spend a ton of time there, so I moved on to the nearby town of New Castle which was Delaware’s first state capitol. Oh my gosh, I really don’t know what all to say about New Castle except that it was amazing. It feels like you’re immediately stepping back in time when you arrive in the historic district of the city. You’re immediately met with rows of colonial buildings that were built in the early-mid 1700s and streets lined with lanterns.

New Castle, DE
Immanuel Episcopal Church cemetery – New Castle, DE

It’s right on the Delaware River, so there’s a stunning park and pier located just on the outskirts of the downtown area where you’re bound to catch a spectacular sunset. Right in the middle of town is the Immanuel Episcopal Church that was built in 1703 with a walled in cemetery surrounding the church. It really feels like you could turn around at any moment and see a horse and buggy rolling down one of the cobble stone streets. It was such a quiet place that really draws you in. There were antique shops, book stores, and my favorite: Jessop’s Tavern.

Sunset from Battery Park – New Castle, DE

The building that Jessop’s Tavern is located in was built in the late 1700s, and the restaurant itself has been open since the 1940s. They stuck very well to the colonial theme with all of their employees wearing period attire and serving high quality renditions of popular colonial dishes. When I arrived they were jam packed, and I could either wait 45 minutes for a table or seat myself at the bar. I chose the bar, and boy I’m glad I did. Not only did I have an amazing hot toddy with cinnamon whipped cream and an absolute unit of Sheppard’s pie, but I met some of the nicest people. When I first sat down there was a lovely older local couple there, and quickly we began talking about life, travel, and New Castle. By the end of our conversation we were Facebook friends, and I had been formally invited to stay with them anytime I was in the area as well as bring my boyfriend. Midway through we were joined by another local woman that none of us knew, but that didn’t stop her from becoming a temporary acquaintance.

Jessop’s Tavern – New Castle, DE

Honestly, I’ve never sat at a bar by myself before, but in this particular place, I was glad I did. It’s really amazing how quickly strangers can become friends when in those scenarios. I would have never met those kind people if not for that. Nor would I have met the second couple that came along. They also lived pretty close, and they were all very surprised that I wasn’t a local. Apparently it isn’t one of those places that falls on most people’s radar when it comes to travel. All in all, I ended up staying there for about three hours eating, swapping stories, sampling beers, and eating ice cream that I probably didn’t need, but it was so worth it. I think that my night in New Castle has been one of my favorites so far.  

Day 21:

After waking up in a freezing car, I was craving a good, hot meal. Lucky for me there was a nice diner just down the street called Gramma’s Kitchen. You know when a restaurant has the word Gramma in it that it’s gonna be good food, and it most certainly was. I opted for eggs and chocolate chip pancakes, because who doesn’t love some good pancakes? After feeling re-fueled, I started towards Watkins Glen State Park in New York. It was about an hour away, so it wasn’t too far of a drive. When I arrived, however, the trail was closed due to the weather…Yeah, so I was pretty bummed, especially since their website didn’t say anything about it. That’s alright though, so I decided to head on to Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania. This time, I made sure to check their website and call ahead of time to make sure that the trail was, in fact, open. Yeah, that didn’t do me any good, apparently, because when I got there it was closed too…Honestly, I was pretty irritated at this point.

Everything was shutting down for the season due to the cold weather coming in early. This further confirmed my decision to cut the trip a bit short. I new that if I kept going north that this would be a trend that I would continue to see. I had wasted hours driving even though I thought I was being thorough. I contacted the woman in New Hampshire that I was supposed to do a Workaway with later that week, and she told me what I had already thought but even worse. She told me that if I continued on without snow tires there was a good chance I would get stuck there until Spring. Yes, Spring, so all signs were pointing to a return trip. Yes, I know, this is probably one of those trips I should have started a bit earlier in the season, but I wasn’t able to, and this weather was a bit early, too. I was planning to already be through New England before this sort of weather set in for the season, but it decided it wanted to come in already.

I am a big believer that things happen the way that they’re supposed to, so I feel that this is how this was supposed to go. By the end up this I will still have had a full month on the road, and to be quite honest, I don’t think I would want to go the two months. I was getting lonely, and I missed people back home. I don’t think that the loneliness would be much of an issue if I didn’t have people back home that I really wanted to see. Plus, I knew that in a couple of months that Joseph and I would be headed out on a trip of our own, so this wasn’t my only chance to do this.

After getting denied by two (2) different places that said they were open, I decided to go somewhere that I knew would be open. To be honest, I’m a football fan. I’m not die hard or anything, but I do enjoy a good game, and I’m an Alabama fan. It was the day of the Alabama vs. LSU game, so I decided to head to Buffalo Wild Wings for a good burger and watch the game. Yeah, we lost, so it wasn’t wildly exciting, but it did make me feel a bit better about the previous events in the day. Not far from there was a gym, so I finished getting out my frustrations with some lifting and a good long shower. What better way to cleanse the soul?

Day 20:

Leonard Harrison State Park, PA

After a couple of days of rest, I was finally ready to hit the road again and dig into something new. When I woke up there was about a half inch of snow on the ground, and the high for the day was only supposed to be 30⁰F. This didn’t stop me, though, so I headed toward Leonard Harrison State Park, or more commonly referred to as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The whole drive there was gorgeous as everything was covered in snow. When I got there, however, it was absolutely freezing. It was 25⁰F, and there a very strong wind coming out of the north. Lucky for me, though, there was a trail out in the woods that was out of the wind and actually led to an even better overlook. So after making the short trek to see the gorge, I decided it was about time to head out or I might end up with frost bite.

Leonard Harrison State Park, PA

Not too terribly far away was Cherry Springs State Park. It’s deemed as a National Dark Sky Park, so it’s perfect for stargazing, and it would be the second dark sky park that I’ve visited on this trip after the Obed. After the light snow the night before, the sky had cleared up beautifully, so that would make for a gorgeous night sky. On my drive there, I passed Lyman Run State Park, so I figured I had plenty of time to kill before it got dark, so I ventured into the park. Because of the cold, it was very empty, but I was alright with that. I took the opportunity to eat some lunch and re-organize my bed. It tends to get scrunched up after a few days, and I don’t want to try and fix it in really populated places, so this was the perfect time to fix it. Once my chores were done, I decided to hit one of the trails in the park. The sun was starting to go down, so I picked one of the shorter trails. Despite the cold air, the snow made for some stunning scenery, and the hike was really enjoyable.

Lyman Run State Park, PA

Where I was at was lacking in overnight parking opportunities, so I decided to call the Susquehannock State Forest office, which is where both the Cherry Springs and Lyman Run State Parks are located, to see if they had anywhere that they would allow overnight parking. I was in luck. There was a camping opportunity just down the road from Cherry Springs State Park, so I was issued a permit to stay there for the night for free. Before heading to Cherry Springs to see the stars, I decided to scope out my camp site for the night while it was still light out. I didn’t love the looks of it, honestly. It was down a gravel road that had ruts in it that had filled with water and frozen over, and there was a good bit of snow on the ground still. My concern is that I would be able to get my car in there, but that I wouldn’t be able to get out in the morning, and since there was no cell signal in the area, I didn’t want to risk it. I wouldn’t have had any problem with it if not for the freezing weather. I figured it would just be easier to head a little ways away and stay at a Walmart for the night.

Lyman Run State Park, PA

After making this determination, I decided to head on over to Cherry Springs State Park. It was already very dark, and it was only about 6pm. It was about 17⁰F outside at this point, and the area was pretty sparse. The moon was a bit too bright to be able to see the stars too well, but it was definitely still a beautiful sight. Nothing anymore spectacular than I had seen before, but it’s definitely nice if you’re used to a lot of light pollution. After hanging around there for a bit, I decided I would go ahead and make the drive to Walmart.

Lyman Run State Park, PA

Winter was coming earlier than normal. There was a snowstorm expected to hit New England in the next couple of days, and I wasn’t really prepared for that. The temperatures were frigid, and it was getting progressively colder in my car at night. At this point I was starting to question whether I should keep heading north, or if I should turn around here. I decided to talk to Joseph and my parents about it and get their thoughts. I think they all agreed: heading north would be risky. The roads were getting icier, and without the proper equipment I could be stuck for a while. I think my decision was made for me when it dropped below freezing in my car that night. I had a hard time staying warm, and I woke up to frost on the inside of my windows and the water in my cup being frozen. This trip isn’t about me trying to prove anything to anyone or myself. It’s for me to enjoy and have a good time. So I decided I would head into New York the next day and then turn around and finish the southern bound portion of my trip.

Day 19:

Driving through Pine Creek State Park, PA

I woke up with plans of hiking and exploring Pine Creek State Park in Pennsylvania, but it seems the weather had other plans. It was around 40⁰F and raining pretty steadily, but I headed to the park anyway. I drove around a bit before coming across the park office. Inside I was able to find several different maps of the park and the trails that it had to offer. None of them were incredibly long, so I thought I might still try and do a bit of hiking. Yeah, I quickly changed my mind when I went back outside and the rain had picked up even more. The trip wasn’t a complete loss, though. There was a fantastic picnic area with a pavilion where I could do some bulk cooking for the next few days.

I don’t particularly like setting up my stove or doing much food preparation in populated areas, so the lack of other people, close parking to the tables, and shelter made this the opportunity I had been waiting for. I whipped out my stove, grabbed all of my ingredients, and got to work. I cooked some couscous, sweet potatoes, and chick peas. I was going to cook some frozen mixed veggies, but they had thawed out and gone bad. Like, real bad. So I definitely learned to not buy anything frozen unless I had plans to cook them in the next day or two. The green peas I had gotten a while back had done perfectly fine, but I had cooked them within about three days after purchasing them. Canned and dry goods are definitely the way to go.

Everything was finally cooked and put away, and I didn’t have any desire to go hiking. It was cold and wet, and I didn’t really want to risk getting five miles out in the woods and then the sky completely falling out. So, I decided to make my way back to Lock Haven and revisit my friends at Avenue 209 Coffee. You can’t go wrong with a good coffee shop, and I had tons of writing still left to catch up on, so it seemed like a pretty solid plan to me. Plus, it would give me an actual in day. In days out here aren’t quite as relaxing as in days at home because you’re still making a public appearance. It was pretty welcome, nonetheless.

After a cold morning of cooking, I decided hot chocolate would really hit the spot, and boy was I right. They had some of the absolute best hot chocolate, and it was just what I needed to get me going on my work. So I ended up spending the next several hours typing away on my laptop trying to recap everything I had done in the past week. Even the days that didn’t feel super busy were filled with tons to say.

Avenue 209 Coffee House – Lock Haven, PA

Around 8:30pm, I decided it was time for me to finally get out of their hair since they closed at 9pm. I didn’t want to be that customer that loitered after closing, especially since I had taken up space there pretty much all day. I made my way a couple of miles down the road to Walmart and headed inside. It was time to replenish the ice in my cooler, so while I was at it, I decided to browse through the snack section. Bad idea. Everything looked so tasty, but I didn’t need any of it. I had plenty of food waiting for me in my car, but I had been eating the same thing every day, so everything else seemed extra appealing. I did, however, decide to treat myself to some ice cream. Don’t worry though, I picked the healthy-ish option. I got a pint of s’mores Halo Top. I had never had the Halo Top brand before, but I must admit, I was quite pleased. I didn’t feel completely terrible about eating the whole thing, and it was actually super good. 10/10.

Once my shopping excursion was over, I made a phone-call back home. I ended up talking to my mom for over an hour. It’s funny how this trip has changed my perspective on phone-calls. I’ve always hated talking on the phone. That changed when I met Joseph because I really enjoy talking to him, but I still didn’t care to talk to anyone else on the phone. Now that I’m out here, though, I find myself making more and more phone calls to people. My mom, dad, Joseph, and my best friend Vanessa have all been subject to my late night ramblings, and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. It wasn’t easy leaving the people I care about, but it would definitely be unbearable if I wasn’t at least able to hear their voices. I guess it’s given me a new appreciation for the people I love and the value of human connection.

Day 18:

Avenue 209 Coffee House – Lock Haven, PA

I ended staying up really late the night before talking on the phone with friends and family, so I had a bit of a late start on day 18. It was alright, though, because the next stop I wanted to make was Pine Creek Gorge, but it was about 3 ½ hours from Pittsburgh. I figured I would stop somewhere about halfway to stay for the night, but I wasn’t quite sure where yet, so I just started heading in the direction of Pine Creek. I made a couple of pit stops, but nothing too major. I did stop in a little town called Bellefonte, PA. It was like something out of a movie. You see in films those perfect little towns with immaculate yards, everyone is friendly and knows each other, people are carrying groceries for old ladies, and there are traffic officers stopping traffic so that school children can cross the street. Yeah, that’s what Bellefonte was. It didn’t feel real, yet here I was. There were so many gorgeous churches speckled throughout the town, but I’m awful, and I failed to get photos of them. They’re there though, I assure you.

Chai Latte from Avenue 209 Coffee House – Lock Haven, PA

Since I had gotten a late start, and I had made a few stops along the way, I wouldn’t have any time to do any hiking that day, so I decided to look for a coffee shop where I could do some work. In a town called Lock Haven, which wasn’t too far away, was a coffee house called Avenue 209. I decided I would head over there and do a bit of writing for the evening. It’s probably my favorite coffee shop I’ve visited on this trip so far. I had a fantastic chai latte while trying to get caught up on the writing I’ve let fall behind. After camping out for a couple of hours, I made my way to a Planet Fitness that was about a half an hour away. I sat in the parking lot for an extraordinarily long time on the phone with Joseph, but eventually I did make my way in for a workout and shower. So overall it was quite an uneventful day, but I wasn’t upset about that. It was probably the closest I’ve come to just having a normal routine since I left. I like spontaneity, but I also love a good routine, so I was perfectly alright with a slightly less exciting day.

Day 17:

Bicycle Heaven – Pittsburgh, PA

It’s amazing waking up somewhere new each day, because today I woke up in the Steel City. I must say, I actually liked Pittsburgh a lot. My only complaint, like with most cities, is the traffic. It was extraordinarily confusing. There were bridges everywhere, and if you didn’t know which lane to be in, you would find yourself on a bridge leading you out of the city before you knew it. Even with the help of my GPS I was making wrong turns all the time. It would definitely take a lot of getting used to. None the less, I ventured back into the downtown streets of the city and headed to Bicycle Heaven.

Bicycle Heaven – Pittsburgh, PA

I was told about bicycle heaven by the lovely people I met at Randyland the day before. It’s a bike shop that also has a museum of over 4,000 bikes and bike related memorabilia. It was free admission, so I figured why not? It was actually really neat. They had tons of rare bike models and bikes that had been used in films like Super 8 and Pee-wee Herman’s Big Adventure. There was row after row of unique and eclectic bikes dating all the way back to the late 1800s. While I’m not a bike fanatic, it was still an incredibly interesting stop.

The Mattress Factory – Pittsburgh, PA

Next up was the Mattress Factory. No, it’s not actually a factory that makes mattresses. It was a completely immersive art museum. It consisted of three different buildings on one block that each had multiple floors. Admission here was $20 a person or $15 for students. It was completely worth it, though, in my opinion. Each exhibit is created by artists specifically for that space, so it was really incredible to walk into a once plain room that had been completely transformed by the vision of an artist.

The Mattress Factory – Pittsburgh, PA

The very first exhibit I entered was a dark, eerie hallway with only couple of lights lining the ceiling. There were crawlspaces along the bottom of the floor for you to go in, but honestly, I got a bit spooked and decided to come back to that exhibit later. Once I read the artist’s meaning behind it, then it all made sense. It was meant to represent past trauma and memories that you can’t quite fully access. That was kind of how I felt when I was in there. I felt like I had to be on my guard and that something was holding me back from really seeing what was there. Later on I did come back to it, and right as I went to enter there were a few other people that joined me, so that made pretty much all of the fear dissipate. We all explored the crawlspaces and the room at the end of the hall together to keep each other company.

The Mattress Factory – Pittsburgh, PA

Most of the exhibits were similar to this in the fact that they completely consumed you. It was pretty amazing to experience art in this way. A lot of the time visual art is just looking at a painting or a sculpture, and some of the exhibits there were kind of like that, but most of the time you were actually apart of the art. Between all of the buildings and floors, I spent about four hours at the Mattress Factory. They do change most of their exhibits every year, so I’ll definitely go back in the future to see what new art they have installed.

The Mattress Factory – Pittsburgh, PA

Another recommendation I had received was the City of Asylum which was right down the street from the Mattress Factory. The City of Asylum is an art community that offers a safe place for people that have suffered some form of oppression to come and seek sanctuary and share their art while they make the transition here permanently. Inside of the City of Asylum was a book store, restaurant, and stage where they do book readings, live music, poetry slams, and a variety of other events. I spent quite some time combing through the shelves of books before picking out a collection of poetry to sit down and read through. After a while it was starting to get dark outside, so I decided it was probably a good time to walk the few blocks back to my car.

View of Pittsburgh, PA

Since it was going to be my last night in Pittsburgh, I thought it would probably be a good time to find a place to see the cityscape at night. After a good bit of driving and several wrong turns, I finally found my way into a neighborhood with a spectacular view over the entire city. The sprawling lights and skyscrapers were something out of a dream. It was relatively quiet where I was except for the occasional barking dog, so the entire experience was incredibly peaceful. It was one of those moments that I was reminded why I want to do this. Having so many new experiences, meeting new people, and having the opportunity to spend my Tuesday night gazing out over the gorgeous lights of an unfamiliar city are worth the moments of frustration.

Day 16:

Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold – Moundsville, WV

We’re over two weeks into the trip now, and it’s day 16: the day I was almost got converted into a cult. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I did visit the Hare Krishnas by accident. I had seen Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold on a website months ago when planning this trip, and it seemed pretty interesting, but I didn’t really look much further into it. So I headed towards the palace which was in the absolute middle of nowhere West Virginia, and as soon as I came around one curve I was met by the sight of a massive, ornate building. You needed to have a tour guide to go in, so I merely walked to the doorway to peep in before going to the welcome center. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt more out of place in my life, but as soon as I entered the welcome center and talked to the woman there, everything felt…fine? She offered me tons of literature, invited me to one of their ceremonies, invited me to lunch, and even gave me a full on hard back book of my choosing. She was incredibly friendly.

Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold Temple – Moundsville, WV

When I started to explore the temple and read the literature that she gave me, I realized this wasn’t just any temple. Krishna is a Hindu god, but the Hare Krishna worship him as the only god, and they also worship the man that started this organization. The more I read and saw, I saw that this was more of a cult. Not long after telling my mom where I was at, she gave me a call asking me to leave. That’s completely unlike her, so I listened. I’ve done a bit of digging since, and I think that was probably a good call. There have been many negative accusations against the community at this temple in the past, but none of them were recent. While I don’t think anything negative would have come from me being there, and the negativity surrounding the community is long passed, It was probably better to distance myself since I had no intentions of pursuing them anyway.

Pittsburgh, PA

After leaving, my next stop was Pittsburgh, PA, so I went ahead and made the drive. When I arrived it was still pretty early in the day, so I had plenty of time to get my bearings. The first sight of the city once I came through the Fort Pitt Tunnel was absolutely stunning. The bridges, buildings, and river just made for a fantastic first impression. I didn’t have a particular destination in mind, so I just spent a bit of time driving around which is what I tend to do in any new city. After a few minutes of confusing turns, bridges, and exits, I decided I should probably pick a destination and make things easier on myself. I plugged the Strip District into my GPS and went on my way.

Now what is the Strip District, you may ask? No, it’s not what you may think. It was completely PG. The Strip District is a street full of ethnic foods, bakeries, cafés, produce stands, vendors selling art, handmade goods, and knockoff souvenirs. I immediately made my way into a Japanese market and picked up some strawberry mochi to snack on as I explored the street. I continued down the strip wondering in and out of shops and trying not to give in to all of the incredible looking food. On the trip back to my car, however, I did end up giving in when I passed a Polish restaurant, S&D Polish Deli. I ordered pierogi with farmer’s cheese filling, haluszki (a pasta with butter, cabbage, and onions), and kielbasa (sausage). I don’t regret it at all, because every bite was incredible.

Randyland – Pittsburgh, PA

My next stop of the evening was Randyland. I hadn’t previously heard of Randyland until I was looking at things to do in Pittsburgh, and it seemed right up my alley. Randyland is a museum located near the Mexican War Streets in the North Side of Pittsburgh. It’s a public artistic expression by artist Randy Gilso where he painted his house in vibrant colors and created an eclectic array of sculptures filling his yard. It’s now open to the public to enjoy free of charge. When I arrived, I went to take a picture, and a woman asked me if I wanted her to move her car for a better photo. I declined, but we started talking. She was local to the area, so she had a ton of tips and recommendations to share. Her friend showed up soon after, and he specialized in finding the unique things to do in cities, and they were both kind enough to share what they knew with me. After a few minutes of talking, we parted ways, and I ventured into Randyland.

Mexican War Streets – Pittsburgh, PA

After exploring the colorful and eclectic art that Randyland had to offer, I decided to walk around the Mexican War Streets a bit more. The houses were beautifully manicured with each one having its own unique architecture and style. There was a beautiful park right on the other side of the main street filled with people jogging, reading, and taking their dogs out for walks. I made my way around a few different blocks checking out the layout of the place. It was getting pretty late, so I decided not to stick around too much, however, I did feel pretty safe in this part of town. It was pretty populated, and everyone I encountered was friendly. Once I made it back to my car I decided to go to Mellon Park Walled Garden and see the constellation light installation. It was placed there in memorial of a young girl who used to frequent the walled garden before her death. I spent a little while walking around the park and enjoying the fountain while making my nightly phone-call to Joseph. At this point it was getting pretty late, so I decided to go ahead and go to the gym for my ritual workout and shower.

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