I'm keeping this short so that they actually get published. Don't expect anything elaborate.
I used Thanksgiving's low-traffic to checkout some sights near Cumberland.
- Paw-Paw Tunnel along Maryland 51 (Scenic Byway)
- Abandoned PA Turnpike Tunnel
- Breezewood PA Junction
Paw Paw Tunnel
The Paw Paw Tunnel was underwhelming, mostly because the canal entrance was bricked off. Though a side door remained open I didn't bother heading in. The tunnel is part of a now-unused infrastructure project that allowed for mule-drawn barges to be pulled north and south across the region. The remains of the canal can be along the walkway, but you could mistake it for a marshy depression.
I took route 51, a scenic byway, to the tunnel and it's well named. I passed some tiny 'ye old' post offices and springs. C&O has a lot of roadside attractions in the area. Maryland has some really great vistas. One that didn't get a chance to photograph is a bit beyond the tunnel, is Prospect Peak. I couldn't grab a photo because I was busy driving of course.
Abandoned PA Turnpike
The Abandoned PA Turnpike tunnel was the best site of the day. There's about a mile long walk up to the entrance. Along the way you can see the graffiti artists have done their work. My favorite are the messages that say "Turn back" and "run now".
The entrance to the tunnel is heavily graffiti-ed. There are some abandoned stairwells and rooms that I could step into if I were brave. I wasn't. In fact, I wasn't planning on traversing the whole tunnel. All I had was a $5 flashlight I had bought at the Sheetz that morning. Thankfully the tunnel was straight so I could keep both entrances in sight. I ended up walking the whole thing.
The tunnel took me 11 minutes to walk through. It's creepy. Every stray leaf or drop of water makes you jump. The first couple of minutes were particularly nerve wracking because there was a scraping sound coming from deep within. For a while I thought it was the sound of an artist at work. No artists, just trash. I have a video of the walk which I plan on uploading at some point.
The abandoned turnpike makes for a great bike path, and that's just how the 50 or so young Mennonites who passed me used it. They came down the tunnel singing hymns and crying out to make their voices echo. The women all wore blue dresses with bonnets. The men black jackets that looked like an older iteration of the bomber jacket. This was a little surreal. They entered the tunnel when I was about half-way through. I felt I had entered some surreal dimension like Pan's Labyrinth or Narnia. I thought of Midsommar, which I haven't seen, but I know it has some ominous ending. Lucky for me it ended up just a field trip.
Me, on the far end of the tunnel -- the Mennonites are nearby casting suspicious glances.
Breezewood PA Junction is a highway oddity in that there should be connecting road between two parts of the turnpike, but due to requirements of early federal funding, the Turnpike is interrupted by a stoplight. This junction has a number of fast food restaurants and gas stations. There's an iconic photo that captures the excessive American corporate highway branding. I did my best to recreate the photo with my phone.
The image is a meme on some urbanism/architecture groups I'm in. Breezewood is meant to represent peak American architecture. Here's a Bloomberg article on the meme. I haven't read the article but the subtitle sets up a strawman. Alas, what else can you expect?
I ate at that McDonald's. It wasn't very good.