Northeast Pennsylvania

I packed the bike heavy again to test my gear and needs. I headed back to Pennsylvania. First I rode north up the Palisades Pkwy, then hung a left on route 6. Somewhere along the way, I missed a turn. I was now on route 17 for a while going north into NY. I saw route 42 south and on a hunch, took it. I ended up exactly where I wanted to be. In Port Jervis at the Hawks Nest. This is a part of route 97 that runs along the Delaware River. It’s the path I took on my first cross country adventure in 2008.

This time I wasn’t going as deep into Pennsylvania as I had in June. I have always wanted to check out Steamtown, the National Parks Service museum for old steam trains. In the past, I was always in a great hurry either escaping the city to go West, or too exhausted on my way home to stop in Scranton, PA. So, I booked 4 nights of camping at Lackawanna State Park. The park is about 20 minutes north of Scranton.

I got my usual late start and arrived just in time to set up my new tent in the dark. I needed some food and wood. There isn’t much in the immediate vicinity of this place. Fortunately, I found a lonely grocery store that was still open. In the parking lot, a BMW enduro bike had pulled up next to me. This dude Dean was riding it. He goes off-road. He said there were trails you could take all the way to Maine. I asked about camping. He said you have to be discreet. No big fires. Gotta look into that.

Back at the state park, the campsite was on a hill and it was difficult to judge the right spot in the dark. My first spot was a lousy lumpy location. So in the morning, I set up on the driveway.

On my first day, I rode around to get my bearings. I rode into Scranton for a bit. A bunch of birds flew by just in time for this shot in front of the Scranton Electric Building. 

Scranton is called the electric city because it had the first continuously running electrified streetcar system in 1866.

I visited the old Scranton Iron Furnaces.

This is a historic site that preserves four stone blast furnaces that were built between 1848-1857.

They made iron rails here for the trains until 1902.

After Scranton I rode south for a while then I wanted to find some supplies. I was looking for some propane gas cans. I went to Walmart. They had some huge ones but not the kind for camping. I checked Dick’s Sporting Goods too. Nothing. After that, I got some groceries and headed back to camp. There were fewer people at the campsite now. A guy named Sal rolled up in a pick-up. He said he had a Bonneville too. He mentioned his bike came with straight pipes when he bought it.

The next morning I could hear Sal coming. He pulled up and we talked a bit. I happened to mention the lack of propane cans in the area. He said he lived in Scranton and would check if he had any back at the house. He also mentioned that Billy Joel has a cool museum showing his motorcycles in Oyster Bay on Long Island. I’ll have to check that out. But today, I was off to a different motorcycle museum.

Bill’s Old Bike Barn

Today I was headed for Bill’s Old Bike Barn. On my way out of the campground, I saw a Bald Eagle soaring above. Always a good sign.

It was about 70 miles by Interstate but I was taking backroads. 29 South did not disappoint. Nice twisty road. Then came Bill’s. A great museum!

My new helmet is going to be fun for photos.

Only 5 bucks admission! Bill’s wife Judy proudly proclaimed this as I entered. It’s been the same price since they first opened. She also introduced Bill, her husband, and namesake of the museum.

Motorcycles everywhere…but so much more!

Within this enormous space, Bill had built his own town, Billville.

Traversing the museum is like a walk down the street in an old town.

As you pass the music store you will find this fantastic motorcycle made of musical instruments.

An A. J. Stevens bike outside the cigarette shop.

Everywhere you look there is something to see. It’s an amazing collection.

I walked into this room set up like a cantina (below). Judy was sitting inside watching FOX news. She asked where I was from. When I told her New York City, she was excited to tell me that the bar in this room was from the 1938 World’s Fair in NYC. The year Bill was born. Then she shared the troubles of enforcing a mask rule in the museum. She says some people get upset about it. One guy screamed at her saying he was a Vietnam Vet and then spit on the floor before leaving just because he was asked to wear a mask. Judy said her attitude was, “Why don’t you just go out back with a 357, I mean we’re talking life or death here!” Well put Judy. But then she said, Bill is 79 and she can’t get him to keep his mask on either.

A fat little Cushman.

A Velocette.

Check out the chain on this Peugeot.

There were a few nice cutouts in display windows.

The Billville Fire Dept. Behind me is an actual fire engine.

There was more to the collection out in the back.

A Rolls Royce pick up truck.

A Whizzer shop.

There was a dentist’s shop and a hairdresser.

Judy is serious about the mask thing.

An Elvis Room.

A Billville Harley shop

The Coca Cola barn.

A Triumph from the teens.

They had a gift shop.  I asked about a T-shirt and Judy said all shirts were $20. Bill had bought a bunch of boxes of shirts and they were all “NOS”. I had to ask, “New Old Stock”. Then I saw this Kawasaki patch. I had this patch when I was in the 4th grade. I remember buying it at a place called the Postermat on 8th Street in NYC. It was on one of those carousel display cases with two buttons that you could push to make it go around in either direction. It was remarkable to see the patch again. It brought me right back. Timewarp! I had sewn it on my jean jacket myself. I thought it was so cool. Now I have it again and it feels just as cool.

I took Route 11 north along the Susquehanna River on my way back. Passing through Plymouth, PA was like going back in time again.

On my way back along the Susquehanna, I also saw a huge Golden Eagle perched on a tree overlooking the river. It was a good day!

This night was chilly. I thought I heard something behind me. I was the only camper at any site to my left or right. It was just woods behind me, and something was moving around back there.

I went to have a look, and check out who I found. Mr. Skunk. I followed him a little, but this was the least blurry shot I got of him in the open.

The next day I was headed for Steamtown.

It’s always cool to come across a tank parked along the road. This tank is in Clark’s Summit, the town where I had been getting my groceries. It was on the way to Scranton.

STEAMTOWN

I was excited to be here. I have always wanted to check it out.

In fact, I was so excited that I left my key in the ignition with the power on.

Of course, I didn’t realize it until I was a good 15 minutes into the museum.

A volunteer named Brad was really knowledgeable about the trains. Because it wasn’t crowded Brad walked along with me and told me all kinds of interesting things about Steamtown.

He said steam engines would spend about as much time in the shop as they did out on the rails. Technicians would crawl in the pits with a ball pin hammer and bang on everything. They knew the sound it should make and could hear if there was any type of damage to a part.

There were exhaust chimneys in each bay because they kept the engines running while they were in the roundhouse. And the only light they would have back then was from the windows.

It was about here that I realized my key wasn’t dangling from my chain where it should be. Shit! I ran back to the bike. Sure enough, I could see that the light was on. I figured, good, but I wasn’t going to try to start it. I would just go back and enjoy the museum.

Down below you can see another volunteer that works on trains. This train is the original color green for a Baldwin train. Brad said it was the only train in the roundhouse that actually runs. He said it was only used in the Baldwin yard so it was never painted another color as most engines would be once sold to a railroad company.

Every train here is researched and brought back to its original look.

In another part of the museum, they have a cutout steam engine so you can see how these monstrous machines work.

Outside in the yard, they had some rusty old beauties.

This is an old train from the Canadian Railway that operated in Vermont back in 1914.

See those white wheels. They would actually replace them by heating them up. Then the white part would expand and they could remove them. A  new one would be heated and placed on the rim. As it cooled it would compress around the wheel.

This rust bucket below is also from 1914.  It’s another Balwin made for the Brooks-Scanlon Corporation.

I asked about this one. It’s an old rotary snowplow that would lead the train on a Long Island line in the 1800’s.

And so I headed back to the bike. Now was the time to see if Bonnie would start. I sat down, turned the key, hit the starter, and…”click”. Not the sound I wanted to hear. I had mentioned to the ranger on my way out that I may have a problem. The ranger was real nice. He said they might have one of those jumper cable machines. He radioed to see if they could find it. While I waited, I asked about the job. Most of the people there are volunteers. This guy was a park ranger. He said it’s a lot of work and a 7-year waiting list for job applications. Wow. I had no idea.

Well, it turned out the jumper machine was locked up in a tool shed and that the mechanic with the key was gone for the day. Luckily I parked at the top of an incline because I needed to do a push start. I hadn’t done one of these in about 10 years or so. I gave myself a quick reminder tutorial from a YouTube vid then gave her a shot. First try, no go. The second time she started right up when I popped the clutch. The bike really wanted to take off as I had her in second gear. Probably could have done it even smoother in third gear.

Now it was Friday night. The weekend campers were arriving with their carnival of lights. As I was sitting by my fire having some dinner, Sal pulled up again in his pick-up truck. He had two cans of propane in his hand. How nice. I asked what I owed him. He said, “pay it forward”. Thanks Sal.

As I was getting ready to pack things up the next morning, I encountered another act of kindness. My neighbors came over with a plate of bacon. Mmmmm. I hadn’t had bacon in a long time. It was delicious.

I had a smooth ride home. I knew I packed too heavy. When I got home I shed a good 10 pounds from my bag. The next trip should be even smoother.

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