Miles to Date: 1,053
May 23, 2015 – Sunny, 60 degrees
I woke up this morning thinking about my father. It was inevitable that the old man would settle in for entire day I was headed to Williamsport, PA. Fifty summers ago he came home from work one afternoon, announced that he was talking all of his twelve-year-old Little Leaguers to Williamsport for the World Series, and decided there was enough room in the Rambler station wagon for nine-year me as well. There were eight, maybe nine, of us. I climbed in the way back and squatted on top of backpacks in silent awe of my two older brothers and the twelve year old all-stars from Toms River Little League. My father drove all night through torrential rain on pre-Interstate two-lane blacktop. We sang ‘’A Thousand Battles of Beer on the Wall’ all the way down to one. Never done that before or since.
Today was perfect, though cold; not one cloud all day. I slipped out of my warmshowers gig right at six and clocked sixty miles by noon. My fingers were numb, but the rest of the world was heating up for Memorial Day weekend. The VFW guys at the Stebben barn were grilling racks of chicken before seven, to be tender for their noon BBQ fest. The sun hung behind the mountains until after eight. Three deer ran with me for about a mile, stopping every few moments to look back and make me feel clumsy in their grace. The sawmills were humming by nine, holiday weekend be damned. But by ten the sun was high enough to thaw my digits and folks propped themselves in front of RV’s parked along Highway 14 to watch the world pass by. The forests were dense, the rivers crystal clear, and the hunting signs ubiquitous. I wondered why the Rodman Gun Club had a wood sculpture of a Neanderthal outside their clubhouse, but decided not to inquire.
I stopped for a breakfast sandwich and sweet bun early on, but was hungry again when I came upon the Marsh Hill Market. Candy made me that Pennsylvania specialty: the hoagie. A hoagie is more than a sub. It is everything so bad that it’s really good. Start with a squishy loaf roll. Slice it down the middle and swab it with mayo. Layer on three varieties of low-cost luncheon meat, the kind that’s pinkish plump from too many nitrates. A few slices of indeterminate cheese as well. Scatter hot peppers, sliced onions, and pickles everywhere, add shaved iceberg, drizzle with oil, then drizzle some more, cut it into two huge halves and top each half with pale, cellophane tomatoes. It’s impossible to actually fold a good hoagie, and Candy makes a very good hoagie. After I downed it all, with a Diet Coke and an ice cream sandwich chaser, I handed my cards around the musty market and got blanker stares than the earlier deer.
I was near Williamsport when I passed signs for a Pow Wow Reenactment in Trout Run. I had to go astray. It was an odd event – Native American costumes, drums and dancing coupled with Revolutionary War wannabes and speeches about the heroism of American veterans. I couldn’t make any sense of it until Sandra Lee Hitchcock, a Cayuga Indian from New York, gave me a coherent explanation, as well as the most poetic answer to my question to date. She insisted I accept a leather neck pouch with fresh sage to protect me on my journey.
Sandra’s protection was welcome, this being my Jack Fallon day. Fifty years ago, when our station wagon full of boys pulled into Williamsport mid-morning, the sun decided to shine. My father inquired about a room in the City View motel, on a hill overlooking Little League home plate. Miraculously, they had a last minute cancellation and gave us a room with a direct view of the World Series Field. Throngs of people from all over the world crammed for a view of the little ballplayers, while we Johnny-come-lately’s landed the equivalent of a corporate box.
Given that precedent, I was compelled to roll into Williamsport without the security of reservation. I passed through downtown, crossed the Susquehanna, and climbed the hill toward the field. Little League has come far in fifty years. The City View is gone, replaced by a museum and administrative building. The main field is still there, plus a second stadium and a dormitory complex where sixteen teams from all over the globe live during the World Series. I enjoyed touring the complex, and discovered a vintage 50’s motel just down the road where I got the nicest room of my entire trip, with a private outdoor porch in the same orientation as the City View. The only way to channel Jack Fallon is to play fast and loose and come up with the best.
In keeping with the sprit of the day, I walked down to the Mountaineer Lounge fro dinner, an Italian gin mill with wood paneled walls and husky voiced waitresses. I snarfed down a meatball sub with fries and draft beer. When the fake blond hostess asked me if I was alone, I nodded. I figured she might not understand that Jack had been with me all day.