Climbing Up Under Sideling Hill

As indicated yesterday I was out on “special assignment.”  This is a little different than just road tripping, and it usually means I went somewhere to do some investigating.  My destination this time was a location I’ve visited before:  the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, just east of Breezewood, PA, and a place I blogged about almost two years ago in my post On The Road to Nowhere. That time I went alone, but this time I was with a friend.

I’ve wanted to return here for a while, but my determination returned when I discovered my newest friend, Holly–a women who works in the same division as me and who is new to the Harrisburg area–wanted to see this place she’d never heard of until I’d spoken.  So . . . road trip?  Of course.  We left The Burg about seven AM and zoomed westward to Breezewood, where breakfast was the first order of the day–

Gril's gotta have her coffee before walking The Road.

Girl’s gotta have her coffee before walking The Road.

Holly giving me that,

Holly giving me that, “We’re gonna get murdered” look.

That last was a running joke we had all during our expedition, that somewhere along the line a serial killer was gonna jump us and leave our bodies on the turnpike.  And, truly, we were the only ones there at first:  when we finally arrived at our first stop, we were the only ones around for miles.

Looking east along the road.

Looking east along the road a famous filming location.

It was quiet save for the sound of bugs and birds, and if you don’t believe me–well, this time I did something I hadn’t the last time:  I shot video.  I put on my Hodgepodge Groupie tee shirt and brought my big tripod–I figured a way to bungie it to my backpack so it wouldn’t slide around–and it was time to get on camera and let you see what we were seeing:

As you can hear, it was quiet.  And you can also tell, I hope, that we were having a bit of morbid fun.  I should also point out that I incorrectly said that Laurel Hill Tunnel is being used by Bobby Rahil Racing:  it’s actually used by Chip Ganassi Racing.  My mistake.

After this it was back in the car and up to the west portal of Sideling Hill tunnel.  If you wondered what it used to look like, here it was during construction:

Nice, clean, and pristine.

Nice, clean, and pristine.

And how it looked when it was in use in the 1950s:

You can almost smell the petrochemiclas being burned.

You can almost smell the petrochemicals being burned.

Today, however, it’s a far different deal, given that it’s been left to the environment and elements for almost forty years.

Sideling Hill Tunnel 07252015005

Abandon All Hope–

Sideling Hill Tunnel 07252015006

Ye Who Approach.

And looking west along a famous filming location.

Looking back to the west from whence we walked.

Here I shot another video, and it’s a bit more creepy, because of things like dripping water, echo, and no one else being around for miles.  No, really:  we were the only ones in the area, and would be for at least another half-hour.

As you can see, and hear, we were staying upbeat, and we were actually joking about a lot.  It was also a lot cooler in the shade where we were standing:  by this time, about ten AM, it was already 90 F/32 C outside.

And all that kidding around about going inside the tunnel–yep, we did go inside.  And not just like fifty feet or so:  we went inside–deep under the mountain.

Here's all that running water leaking from the ceiling.

Here’s all that running water leaking from the ceiling.

Here's what lay ahead of us as we went deeper--

Here’s what lay ahead of us as we went deeper–

And the light we were leaving behind.

And the light we were leaving behind.

Holly totally in charge of keeping the way lit and reading all the grafiti.

Holly totally in charge of keeping the way lit and reading all the graffiti.

Eventually we reached a point far enough inside that it was totally creepy dark and dry–and still completely alone.  And this is where I shot the last video.  And if you don’t like dark spaces, or you get claustrophobic imagining being inside a mountain with tons of rock surrounding you, do not watch this next video.  It wasn’t bad for us, but then, we were there in the first place, so how could it be bad?

As indicated at the end of the video, people finally started showing:  it was two couples on bikes riding in from the west.  As they biked past the comments on how they wondered why we were moving so slow.  Well, because we’re on foot?  Yeah, something like that.

Before we left the deep interior of Sideling Hill–if you didn’t watch the video, we walked about fifteen hundred feet, or about four hundred fifty meters inside–we caught a couple of selfies:

Holly working on her Japanese ghost cosplay.

Holly working on her Japanese ghost cosplay.

Me practicing my remake of the Mama music video.

Me practicing my remake of the Mama music video.

And we did a group shot once we were back in the sunlight–

Tunnel Exploring Babes, Yo!

Tunnel Exploring Babes, Yo!

And Holly does her happy dance as we return to the car:

“Yay, we weren’t murdered!”

I should point out that we tried to make our way over to Ray’s Hill Tunnel, but the only area with close access also seemed to be protected but paranoid hillbillies who may or may not have been up to nefarious things, and the feeling was we should just get the hell out and come back to the other tunnel when it was cooler and we could stand a mile and a half walk.

As it was we still had a nice walk:  1.9 miles, or 3.06 kilometers.

As it was we still had a nice walk: 1.9 miles, or 3.06 kilometers.

On the way back to The Burg we stopped at Sideling Hill service plaza and changed into more comfortable clothes–aka skirts and jumpers–and sped back home to grab lunch before we began hangry–hungry and angry.  There we dined on pretty fine Italian food, and grabbed another picture together because why not?

Also, there were a few adult beverages going down--

Also, there were a few adult beverages going down–

--because that's what you do when you walk out of the Mines of Moria.

–because that’s what you do after you walk out of the Mines of Moria.

There we are:  another successful adventure, and one shared with another person who said she enjoyed herself immensely.

Now . . . what can I do next?

Mileage and Meadows

Here I am, back in my second home, back in The Burg.  Good trip, eight and a half hours on the road, and catching the last rays of the sun as I topped Sideling Hill, just about where I figured it would happen.  Had a lot of fun roaring down the winding stretch of the Penn Turnpike from the East Portal of the Allegheny Tunnel to well on the other side of Bedford, where most people are like, “Oh, this is kind of scary, better keep it between 55 and 60,” and I’m like, “I’ve driven the ten percent downgrade on The Green Hell at 110, outta the way, proles.”

I made it home in good time, six hundred and thirty-five miles in about eight and a half hours.  I didn’t feel good most of the way, but that was just Indiana getting back at me for going on about how ghetto the east side of the state looks.  No, really:  some of the crappiest rest stops along the way.  It’s like having to stop at the late, not-so-great Cabrini Green for gas–and you can fuel up your car, too!

NaNo was behind me yesterday, but I finally sat down about nine PM and wrote a little over five hundred words.  Why?  Because I said I would, and I felt a lot more alive than I had last Friday when I made the trek back to NWI.  I was also having a cocktail, which seemed to put me in a mood to do something.  And while the brain wasn’t firing all on cylinders, I continued the scene and arrived at a point where another truth has been revealed.

I’ll finish up the scene I’m on today, move the next scene to another part of the book–I’ve moved this once already, but where I’ll put it makes more sense–and maybe even finish the chapter this afternoon.  Then I’m going to try something, because if I end up writing a couple of hundred thousand words, and then wait a few months before reading through it again, I’ll end up working on this story forever.  Give the sort of things you can do with Scrivener, I’m going to try an editing process that William Gibson uses, but putting a twist on it.  I thought about  this on the later stages of the trip last night, and if it works it’ll save me time getting the story finished.  It’s going to cut production for the next couple of weeks, but in the long run it should save me time writing and editing.

I’m finally ready to bring the classes onstage, and one of the first scenes is gonna take us to Flight School, where my little blond Jewish instructor–a former racer with the call sign Nightwitch–is going to show these kids how to fly a Class A PAV.  And none of his Madam Hooch “Up!’ shit, either.  No, she’s gonna show you how to fly the damn thing–and give you a cool call sign at the same time.  Which means everyone who flies at the school has a call sign, and you know that means I’ve figured them all out.

Yeah, I do that a lot.