We spent our one night in Williamsport at the historic Genetti Hotel, built in 1922 as the Lycoming Hotel when lumbering was still booming in the area. The tallest building downtown (ten stories) with 200 rooms, the Genetti proudly proclaims that it was a speakeasy and bootlegging center during prohibition, has ghosts, and in its heyday hosted many famous people whose pictures line a hall off the lobby. The Lycoming Hotel, as did Williamsport, declined after World War II. The hotel was sold to Gus Genetti and renamed in the late twentieth century. Upgrades have been made to the place, but it retains a certain shabby aura that somehow befits the place. The staff was friendly and helpful, however, and our modest suite, at a modest price, was perfectly fine.
Our difficulty, however, was in finding a place for dinner. We had identified what we thought was a good Williamsport restaurant, but it was not open Sunday night when we were there. We soon found out that most other restaurants in Williamsport were also closed Sunday evenings. That friendly Genetti staff identified the one or two nearby places that were serving, and we were grateful to walk to a quiet pub populated with locals (Williamsport outside of the Little League World Series is not a tourist mecca) that a had a good hamburger and a good pork chop with a good selection of beer. It satisfied.
The next morning we headed to Fallingwater driving interstates, state highways, and local roads. On the major arteries, signs primarily state the towns and the institutions at the exits. Again, I was struck by the number of educational institutions. Who knew there was an Altoona Bible Institute? On the local roads, however, we spotted a variety of yard signs. Pennsylvania seems to have a plethora of frequently held local elections producing yard signs that usually contain just the candidate’s name and the office sought. (Who runs for tax collector? What are the campaign promises? How do voters make their decisions?) A few yard signs said, “God Bless Our Troops.” (I wondered if this was meant that God should not bless the rest of humanity.) More proclaimed, “We Support the Police.” (And I wondered what that support consisted of and whether my assumption was correct that the signs indicated how the owners felt about Black Lives Matter and the conservative notions of critical race theory.) And what I don’t think I would have seen a decade ago a year after a presidential election and three years before the next one, signs about our national leader. I did not notice any signs supporting Biden, but I did see “Fuck Biden.” (I felt like leaving an ugly graffito that said, “Well, your mother did.”) Some signs seemed left over from last year, saying “Trump 2020.” Others were forward looking with “Trump 2024,” with a more expansive one: “Trump 2024. No More Bullshit.” This I thought was inconsistent unless the owner adopted my position that, in spite of his many falsehoods, Trump is not a bullshitter because a bullshitter has to care about facts and the truth. (See post of December 11 and 14, 2017, “The Bullshitter in Chief: The Bullshitter-in-Chief – AJ’s Dad (ajsdad.blog) and The Bull-Shitter-in-Chief (Concluded) – AJ’s Dad (ajsdad.blog)
We did not drive straight through on the longish drive from Williamsport to Addison, Pennsylvania, where our bed and breakfast lodging was located. Instead we detoured to see Lincoln Caverns and Whispering Rock, discovered in 1930 during road construction and owned by the same family since shortly after their discovery. Our descent was led by an affable guide who had spent most of her life in the area. We got an early dose of Halloween because one of the caves was outfitted with “gruesome” dummies and props for spooky tours that were to begin in a few days. This, however, did not interfere with viewing the awesomeness of the caves and its calcite flows including “bacon” formations that looked startingly like the real thing. Limestone underlies much of Pennsylvania, and this apparently results in the creation of many caves. We had seen several signs for other caves open to the public. I asked about the “competitors,” and the guide said that they did not view other caves open to the public as competitors but as colleagues in a joint enterprise. Moreover, the gift shop tried to have brochures from every public cave in the country. I enjoyed our descent, learned much, and now hope to visit other caverns.
After a pleasant outdoor lunch (it was unseasonably warm October weather for all of our trip) in the small town of Huntingdon (home to Juniata College founded by members of the Church of the Brethren in 1876), we drove to our lodgings for the next two nights, Hartzell House, the B and B about ten miles from Fallingwater. The original part of the house was built in 1870 by a returning civil war veteran, but it has been expertly expanded by its present owners and our hosts, Kitty and David.
Kitty again showed me to be wary of the facile, cliched assumptions that I can make. She led us to our room and opened the closet pointing to robes for our use. We commented on the two military uniforms also hanging there. Kitty said they had belonged to her father who had been in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and that is why this was called the Patriot Suite. (The room also had a dozen books on military history.) She went on to say that both her son and daughter had been in the military, and, reflexively, because of all these connections to the armed services, I drew conclusions about Kitty and her values and politics. But these became almost immediately upended.