Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Visit to Sheetz

I know I've mentioned before that I'm very loyal to companies that treat me well, and likewise don't often give second chances to those which do me any disservice. High on the top of my list of the good guys is Sheetz, a chain of gas stations slash mini-marts slash delis here in the northeast.

Their stores are clean, colorfully decorated, and well stocked with vittles of all sorts including made to order items. I can fill my huge Bubba Kegs with coffee, soda, or iced tea for a song and a dance, and after every five purchases the next drink is on the house - even a huge one! Best of all, though, the folks behind their counters are super friendly because they appear to enjoy working there which is much more than can be said for the typical checkout clerks just about anywhere else that I shop regularly. By their own description from the Sheetz website: "Sheetz is a family owned business. It's not a faceless corporation, but instead it's a personal passion of the owners and employees." I laud them for that passion that carries over to their customers.

I was in Altoona, Pennsylvania for a few days and because the Sheetz Corporate Offices are there I just had to drop by to get a few pictures. Here I am soaking up the sunshine in front of the Sheetz bat cave. It was a little nervy to walk right into the place just to check it out, but we did and met a couple of great receptionists who were most cordial.

Photo by Susan

Once inside I got to say hi to Bob, the Sheetz founder, in the lobby. He didn't talk much but it was nice to meet him just the same.

Photo by Susan

Free coffee always tastes better and I enjoyed this cup from the Sheetz H.Q. with smug satisfaction.

Photo by Susan

I got Susan out from behind the camera and behind the official Sheetz Hummer appropriately licensed as "YUMMER2." I don't know if there's a YUMMER1.

The cool office ladies gave us these nifty key chains to commemorate our visit.

The only thing better would to have been there on the BV instead of in the Neon.

No Sheetz in your neck of the woods? As their website suggests: "If you live in a state outside of our operating area, you may want to consider a move in the near future!" I wish they'd build more Sheetz stores right here in the valley. Perhaps one on my block!

If you ever look at the "What I'm Doing Now" in my sidebar, you'll have noticed that I've taken to including links to pictures sent from the road to Twitpic, the picture version of Twitter. It's easier to send pictures than to key in text descriptions of my whereabouts and more fun too.

As for now, the sun's shining. I'm off on the BV to destinations unknown. I'll know where I'm going when I get there.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Take Me to the Fair

I've been away since Sunday and part of my time on the road was spent most enjoyably at the Bedford County Fair. As always, my eye was drawn to the more unusual things and my fingers reached for the camera in response when I spied them.

I liked this view of some piece of farm equipment that looked like so many sunflowers reaching for the sky. I imagine one of these things could figure prominently in at least one very gory scene from one of those movies where demented kids are way too much into corn.

The "Dick's Emergency Tattoos" ambulance cracked me up entirely even as I wished that I could be so clever as to think up an idea like this. I can't imagine what, other than too much alcohol, might inspire one to visit a county fair and come away with a tattoo. An emergency one at that!

Yes, ladies and gentleman, John Deere makes a tricycle perfect for hauling horse crap from the stall to the very big community pile. The little boy riding it was adorable, but what a job to have before even heading to kindergarten!

This charming family was watching the tractor pull where I saw the country version of a Zamboni grooming the dirt after each tractor did its thing. I wonder if he really rides a bike?

This shot reminds me of a lot of the things I read on the internet, none of them on scooter blogs of course.

And what post here would be complete without a picture of yours truly having as much fun as a barrel full of monkeys?

Photo by Susan

More photos from my blessed time away in the days ahead. (I was totally thrilled to visit the corporate headquarters of one of the companies I tout over there in the sidebar. Just wait till you see the awesome pics!)

How I wish there were places all over that rent scooters 'cause I'd love to have mine with me when I go to places too far (by my standards) to get to on it. I've thought about getting a trailer of some kind, but with a kid getting married in a few months and another still in college I'm lucky to get a pack of gum every now and then.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Down the Line

"I'm going down the cellar to get some soda."

There's something wrong with that sentence, and in spite of priding myself on my generally correct use of grammar and obnoxious habit of daring to correct others for theirs when it's incorrect, I'd spoken of trips to the basement that way all my life until recently when it was pointed out to me that it's as wrong as, "He lives back the road," by the person whom I was correcting for saying that.

It was my choice of "Down the Line" as the title of this post that led me to write that preface. Going down the line here in the valley would refer to traveling south on one of the back roads, through various small and nondescript municipalities lined up like a row of ducks.

On Saturday I rode south in somewhat of a miserable mood. Somebody dear to me was having a rough time and I tend to empathize to such a degree that I start to share in another's misery myself. I rode, but I didn't much enjoy the ride.

My first stop was in Warrior Run, home of the long deceased "Lefty," the famous (in local circles) accordionist, and Ron who was the drummer in our polka band back in college. I stopped beside a small pavilion with a lone picnic table where I took a sip of soda. (That soda that I got down the cellar. " Pop" if you're down the cellar west of Pennsylvania.)

If you look behind me and to the left, you'll see a dialog balloon over the doorway of the building. It reads...

...but I wasn't feeling very nice.

I got as far as the Hanover Section of Nanticoke (Home of the famous John Stanky the accordionist.*) when I decided that I'd had enough. I rolled down Middle Road to Prospect Street and then into Nanticoke proper where I turned onto Ridge Street and passed by this fine establishment the name of which has always cracked me up.

Sanitary Bakery? Would that be as opposed to the filthy bakery that has roaches crawling all over the place and mouse crap in the flour? From D. B. Echo, author of A Blog of Nanticoke: "Its name comes from a long-ago time when the word 'Sanitary' indicated a level of quality and cleanliness beyond that of run-of-the-mill bakeries." Thanks, D. B.! I'd always wondered about that!

On the way back to the house I passed by this poor little fellow who in his rather sorry state summed up the mood I was in.

Oddly, he didn't stink. I guess he had been of the sanitary variety of skunks!

On Sunday my mood was greatly improved and I ran the same basic ride to make up for the lousy time I'd had on Saturday. It's amazing how everything looks different when one's perspective is adjusted!

*Apparently when one plays the accordion, one marks his travels relative to the domiciles of other accordionists. I didn't realize that until now.

Note to self: You need a picture of yourself with your accordion, on the scooter! You won't look like a dork at all! It'll be way cool!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Folks Along the Way

I was out yesterday on the scooter and paused in front of the church where my beloved grandfather was the organist for over 25 years. I remember being very young and sitting beside him on the organ bench while he played for various masses and services at St. Joseph's in Georgetown. I'm humbled that Gramps' musical abilities live on in me along with a few other special things about him that that endeared him so much to me.

This morning I set out to visit the site of the annual St. Ann Novena in Scranton where I met three great Scranton police officers. I began the questionable ascent of St. Ann's St. in Scranton where parking was three lanes deep and only one lane was open heading west with the east lane shut down entirely. I got to the first officer about halfway up the hill and asked if there was a flat place where I could put the bike. He waved me through and suggested the crest of the hill itself. When I got to the top there were two officers directing traffic there. I asked them the same question and they gave me the best seat in the house, so to speak. A perfect parking place right across the street from the basilica. Not only that, but both of them came over to talk to me about the BV, asking all sorts of questions. I love answering questions about the scooter and scootering and they were the perfect audience because of their curiosity.

I walked the grounds, said a few prayers, and picked up a St. Ann medal, but didn't stay for any of the services. The directors of the novena would do well to put up some kind of schedule board to let us pilgrims know what's going on when. Since I was more or less just around the corner from where Gramps grew up I decided that a picture in front of the old homestead was in order.

On the way I noticed a small scooter parked beside a Dunmore business and because it was parked in an out of the way space I guessed that it might belong to one of the folks who worked there. I remembered a while back having posted to one of the scooter forums the question, "Would you stop?" in which I asked if you were scootering along and somebody else on a scooter motioned for you to pull over, would you? I was thinking about impromptu interviews with other scooterists and wanted to know if others would participate in some spontaneous talk for the blog. The answers were quite positive so when I saw this particular scooter this morning I decided to get up the guts to walk into the place and ask if the owner of the scooter was about.

When I got inside I noticed two workers - a young woman, and a very tall young man with a beard. The gentleman was busy so I approached the young lady and asked her if the scooter owner worked there. She gestured toward the man and I chuckled inwardly because I'd not have guessed that he'd have been the one because of his height I waited till he finished helping a customer and struck up a small conversation. After a while I told him about this blog and asked if I could get a picture of him with his ride.

As Mark and I continued talking outside by our scooters I discovered that he lives down here in the valley and not far from where I hang my own hat. He said that his two brothers and both of their wives are scooterists as well which I thought was very cool. He was hoping for a dry commute today and while the weather was great when I was about this morning and early afternoon the sky's taken a decided looking turn for the worse. I think his scooter's a Vino, but I'd not swear to it because when I start talking to somebody it's more about the person than the machine.

It turned out that my talk with Mark gave me a swell of confidence that would come in handy just a little while later when I got to my grandfather's homestead and discovered that the inner door was open and only the screen door was closed on the front of the house. Though it was out of character for me to be so bold, with no hesitation at all I walked up the path to the porch, mounted the stairs, and rang the doorbell. A gentleman who appeared to be perhaps half a generation younger than myself answered the door and I bluntly told him why I was there and asked his indulgence in taking a picture of me with the scooter in front of the house. He not only obliged most graciously, but gave me a tour of the backyard and the first floor of the house itself. What a wave of incredible memories washed over me as I walked through the rooms where as a kid my family and I on Sunday afternoons had often visited Gramp's sister and her husband - Aunt Anna and Uncle Butch!

Photo by Bryan Peters

On the way back under thicker and darker clouds I passed by yet another scooter, this one parked outside a hair salon near Old Forge. I just had to stop. Inside I was greeted by a most pleasant young lady, but the scooter belonged to her manager who wasn't there at the time. Nevertheless she and I talked for a while and it was a delightful experience I'd not have had if not for my trusty BV and the scooter parked outside the shop as the common denominator that linked my life with hers for a brief time. Scooters seem to bring out the best in people!

I don't know where tomorrow might take me. I'm guessing not far from here because of a partly rainy forecast.

On Wednesday there's a scheduling meeting at the school so my riding will be at the mercy of how expediently we come up with a workable plan. The whole process of scheduling classes to me is like working a Rubik's Cube which I used to solve by peeling the colored squares off the smaller cubes and reaffixing them as needed. I'll sit back, beam my best scooter riding smile, and encourage the others who are gifted with the ability to plan well to do their thing. It'll be good to see them and catch up with what we've been doing since school got out, but I'm not ready to go back quite yet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pruning the Sidebar and Miscellaneous Pictures

I'd say the time had come for my annual sidebar pruning, but I don't know that it's an annual event. I did find myself going a little bonkers, though, when clicking on links I had there to blogs whose owners apparently just stopped writing, so for my own sake I had to get rid of them. I had no secret formula such as the one Google uses to determine ranks of websites. I simply rolled through my head a number of factors before deleting the ones that didn't make the cut such as how much I liked the blog, how long it had been since it was updated, and if updates were few and far between but more or less regular in spite of their infrequency.

Further, to spare myself from constantly clicking on my own links in hopes of finding something new on the other end, I added the feature that notes below each link how long it's been since the blog was updated. I love this feature though switching to it was a tedious process of copying each one into the new format. Now the more productive writers will have their rightful places at the top of the blog roll, and the busies or lazies will drift to the bottom.

I took a bunch of pictures yesterday, intending to use them here, but then the plane pictures trumped them. I did ride today for a while, but didn't find anything photo worthy so here's what you missed yesterday...

I never noticed this curve on the BV before. Pretty. Don't you think?

I'd hoped to catch up with the short line's engine that was running along the lower track behind the house, but it was already past the most likely place where I might have intercepted it, here where a few Corona bottles on a poster made an amusing backdrop.

A run through the mall parking lots for want of anywhere better to roll brought me to Best Buy just as the Geek Squad guys showed up to load up their trucks. I pulled up to one of them and asked if he'd be so kind as to get a picture of me posed beside his truck. He obliged with a chuckle. Too bad I wasn't wearing my own Geek Squad tee shirt!

Photo by Shawn of the Geek Squad

I took this next picture mindful of my Art 101 class at college in which we had to do works with lines at the outset. I liked how the bleachers formed a blind effect with the BV behind them, but I'm not sure why I threw myself into the shot.

A picture of me posed in front of the iron sculpture that I visited quite often last summer when I wanted to talk on the phone while off the bike. I'm not sure why I haven't been there yet this summer until yesterday, but it's as pleasant a place as ever, conducive to thinking and simply enjoying being alive and well.

The day ended very nicely at my Uncle's annual (Yes, this one is annual.) Christmas in July party. I called my sister in the morning to ask if we needed to eat supper before heading there or if there would be food as there is for his real Christmas party (The one in December.) and she said, "It's just beer on the porch." Indeed, it was a veritable smorgasbord of classic and some newfangled beers on Uncle Slim Dog's front porch. I enjoyed a few cold varieties of Stegmaier and the company of family and some old and new friends.

Every kid should have been so lucky as to have had an uncle like this guy when he was growing up!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Although I've Never Flown...

I rode down a peaceful access road to a county park (The kind without rides.) this morning and once again wheeled past a row of small planes parked on the other side of the fence that separates the road from the Wyoming Valley Airport, also run by Luzerne County. I've eyed those planes every time I've ridden past them wanting to get a picture or two of the scooter next to a plane. Although the office is at the other end of the air field and there's an open gate right there through which I could have ridden up to the planes and taken some pictures, there's also a notice against trespassing and I take such things seriously. In this day and age when terrorism and aircraft are too often related, one is prudent not to take any chances.

I debated again, as I often did in the past, about going into the office and asking for permission to drive onto the field and get some pictures, imagining as I always did some guy behind a counter dismissing me as some kind of nut. Today, though, I got up the nerve to do it.

The place was empty except for a gentleman about my dad's age seated in a comfy chair reading the paper. "Are you the guy in charge?" I asked. "I am," he replied with a soft voice and the kind of smile that makes little kids love their grandpas. "What can I do for you?" he offered. Here it came. "I ride scooter and I'd like to get some pictures of it next to the planes on the other end of the field." It turned out that he'd been thinking of getting a scooter. Our conversation "took off" from there.

Photo by Ed

I was too fascinated to pay attention to what kind of plane Ed said this is when he invited me into the main hangar with the scooter and started telling me about this WWII fighter which is still in active service - taking folks for rides over the valley. He told me to watch for it overhead because it's in the air frequently and has a distinctive low drone to its engine.

Ed invited me to climb onto the wing and snapped this picture for me too. It's as close to getting into a plane as I've ever come.

Photo by Ed

A few folks came by to ask about rides and while Ed tended to answering their questions I wandered around the hangar peeking into the various cockpits. I returned to the Navy plane which seemed to be Ed's pride and joy to talk about and got this shot of myself and the Piaggio reflected in the nose piece of the propeller.

Ed told me various facts about the airport itself too which I'd never known. It was founded in the 1920's when local farmers donated the land to the City of Wilkes-Barre to make it into an airport. It remained as part of Wilkes-Barre till in the 1970's the city transferred ownership to Luzerne County. If it should cease to be used as an airport, the ownership of the land reverts to the heirs of the original land donors.

I spent some of the hour or so that I talked with Ed trying to convince him to go ahead and get a scooter. I'm going to head back before summer vacation's over to see if he did.

On the way out I stopped and took a few of the pictures by the planes I'd wanted to pose the BV with in the first place.

Just another sunny day of Scootin' da Valley!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stuff Du Jour

I've been parking the scooter more often on the sidewalks at strip mall type places and not getting bothered by anybody about it. Of course I'm careful to look for places where the curb is lowered for wheelchair access to get the bike up onto the sidewalk. I'm tempted to park sometimes in those large areas with diagonal stripes that are basically wasted space in parking lots. I do see some bikes parked there from time to time, but they seem more out of place than cycles on the sidewalks.

I got what I thought was an interesting shot of myself this morning after a patrol car pulled up behind me at a red light and the officer announced, "Sir, do you remember the definition of irony and poetic justice?" through the loudspeaker in his squad car. I laughed heartily and when the light changed to green I gestured for him to follow me and pull into a parking lot up ahead. The policeman is the same graduate of mine of whom I wrote in April and we spent another good half hour of chewing the breeze. I noticed the reflection of myself in his sunglasses and grabbed this shot...

I got myself a pie iron on my morning ride and will be trying it out in a little while. There's a big hunk of leftover ham in the fridge and an outstanding chunk from a wheel of cheddar that should make a good filling. I see some bananas hanging in the kitchen and perhaps a little later I'll mash one of them up and mix it with a little rum, brown sugar, and cinnamon to bake in another mountain pie as a Bananas Foster knock off for dessert.

I left the scooter on the street since this morning but haven't gotten back out to it yet. I'm pretty sure that I'll head off to Sheetz later to fill one of the Bubba Kegs with peach flavored green tea, and if the temperature doesn't drop back to chilly as it's been doing when the sun's low in the sky I do believe a ride of moderate length will be in order.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weekend Travels

I spent another very relaxing weekend in Western Pennsylvania. Though I was in the car rather than on the scooter, the trip out there was most enjoyable with sunny weather for a change.

I had my first taste of mountain pie! I'm not sure if it's a Western PA thing or a camping thing, but they were much better than one would think they might be for what's basically a grilled sandwich with sealed edges. I don't know if they'll work on a gas grill, but I'll be aiming to try.

While riding around near the Lincoln Highway we came upon a giant praying mantis statue of which I just had to get some pictures. When I got back here and saw them I knew I had to post this one somewhere besides emailing it to my sister and daughter who'd appreciate it.

Photo by Susan

I'd wished that I'd paid some attention to where I was when this photo was snapped. With nothing more to go on than "mantis bicycle built for two rte 30" I hit up Google and in no time found this link and this one, both explaining where the mantis is and why there's a huge sculpture of a man and a woman riding a bicycle built for two right next to it.

I never knew the Lincoln Highway existed until I stumbled onto the blog about the two guys who rode a pair of Piaggio MP3s across it from coast to coast last summer. If I'd realized that their route was going to take them through the area that I visit frequently I might have planned to be there for their passing through which was on July 9th of 2008.

We left the Somerset area on Saturday morning on a leisurely drive down to Morgantown, West Virginia. What irony that shortly after I wrote my blog post about not being crazy about Olive Garden I not only had lunch there, but found a scooter parked right next to their sign. (In my defense, in the article I wrote that I don't go to places like Olive Garden without a gift card in my pocket. I had one for $25!)

The scooter is a Lifan 150cc. One might be led to believe that with a name like "American Lifan" their scooters would be American made. Guess again. From the very first line at their website: "American Lifan sells China Lifan manufactured products."

Our trips to West Virginia always refresh me. The scenery is unique with hills everywhere. At one point a missed turn with the GPS had it reroute us. I'd forgotten that I'd set the option to use unpaved roads as a necessity the last time I'd traveled - until we found ourselves on a road apparently built only to allow access to a cell phone tower atop one of those many hills. This one was even worse than the road along the river and railroad tracks that I wrote about in the spring. I sat in the passenger seat saying some Hail Marys while my pilot maneuvered my poor little Neon over logs and alongside deep ruts that surely would have hung us up if we'd been half an inch closer. See that crater just waiting to swallow my front tire in the lower right corner!

While passing by this old Esso station I felt another picture coming on and on a return drive-by we stopped to snap it.

Photo by Susan

I'm partial to old Esso memorabilia because when I was a kid my dad got Esso gas exclusively at Eddie Check's Esso station on River Street in Wilkes-Barre. Anybody as old as I whose dad bought a lot of Esso Gas might remember their gift of the month club by which one received in the mail each month some token gift. I remember waiting every month for the envelope to arrive because I was allowed to open it and see what "treasure" was inside. Oh, that I'd saved some of those plastic and cardboard baubles for the fortune I'd make selling them on Ebay!

Alas! My trip is over and I'm back at the house on what feels like a Monday morning though it's Tuesday. There's a lot of stuff going on over the course of the rest of this week and next week including my uncle's annual Christmas in July party, a barbecue with my daughter's future in-laws, a scheduling meeting at school, and a wedding to attend. Remind me to take my camera!

= = = ADDENDUM = = =

After Jim's comment about the mantis I just had to add this shot too...

Photo by Susan