Saturday, February 20, 2010

Travelogue of the Poconos

[Previously published at]

Journey Along the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad by Alan Sweeney

It was hiding in the attic. Underneath a thick layer of dust and dirt was an old shoe box filled with photos and picture post cards. The post cards were on a thicker bond of paper than we see these days and the side with the photo was textured. The texture was more pronounced than the typical matte finish. Slide your finger across it and you feel the embossed nature of the finish. Several of them survived the storage well and are stunning! Others did not fare as well and, although dilapidated, still manage to depict scenes of an era past in real time but alive in the memory. Who hasn't enjoyed a dig through an assortment like this found in a back room, basement, or attic? Fortunately for us, Alan Sweeney (a veteran of the hospitality industry) decided to share the fun of an adventure down memory lane with his photos and post cards.

Our trip begins in the depot at the Delaware Water Gap and we follow the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad line west to Tobyhanna. After the first stop in East Stroudsburg we visit five other tourist destinations in the Pocono Mountains. Each of the eight chapters begins with photos of the local railway station or depot followed by reproductions of vintage photographs and post cards that reveal the charm and appeal of the various mountain settings. Boarding houses, hotels, inns and resorts sprung up all throughout the Poconos as more and more New Yorkers sought the refuge of the Pennsylvania mountains for clean air, cooler weather, and beautiful surroundings. Many came for the weekend or a few days while others stayed for a week or longer. Long lasting friendships developed as locals opened their homes to the visitors who came season after season. We see a variety of scenes including interiors of the resorts, enticing landscapes, and visitors enjoying the recreational activities available. The post cards are fun! Several include hand written notes from the late 1800's and early twentieth century. Also included are some period advertisements, promotional brochures, and menus.

Over one hundred locations are represented with sometimes similar but always unique histories. In many cases, the author has included a brief history and the current status of each property. I particularly appreciated the larger size print, the arrangement of the photos, and the layout for a book destined to grace many coffee tables and find it's way into waiting rooms (especially in the North East). The quickly read comments and stories of each site add up to an interesting commentary on the area and how it evolved from shared rooms to resorts accommodating hundreds. One resort alone hosted three presidents. Journey is fun to enjoy in a single sitting or to enjoy many times letting it fall open to an appealing locale on each visit. Whether it's "The Antlers Inn", "Cherry Lane Cottages" or "The Indian Queen Hotel", the romantically named destinations will welcome you with warmth and style as many times as you care to visit.

Would I buy this book? Yes! The nostalgia factor and it's potential to begin both reveries and conversations make it an excellent investment. I'll keep it next to my recliner.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I'll Catch You at the Light

[Previously published on]

On the way to work one morning last week, I was accelerating up to the 50 mph limit when a car closed fast behind me and passed in a stretch of road where the double yellow line was absent for just a few hundred feet. It would have been a close call had another car been approaching from ahead. The passer who was in such a hurry zoomed over the hill, around a curve and out of sight. Just a minute or two later, I pulled up right beside him at a red light. The temptation to wave at him was almost irresistible! In the end, I just focused on the light and to my surprise, accelerated away from the light ahead of him. Maybe I beat him off the line because he wasn't paying attention, but of course, he passed me again before we got to the school zone.
My commute to work is twenty-seven miles and depending on weather and traffic usually takes forty minutes. About ten years ago I decided that the pace of my life could slow down a bit and not much would change. It was easy to rely on my car's cruise control. Setting this handy device at about five mph over the limit tends to keep me going at a speed the state troopers don't seem to mind. Other drivers do. Most just fly by like I'm standing still and ignore me. Some are annoyed. It has always struck me that tailgating at sixty mph is dangerous so when another driver passes me and cuts right in front of me I change lanes. Remember the old rule about keeping one car length per ten mph behind the vehicle in front? The last fifteen miles to my job is all four-lane divided highway and ends at a very long light -- it must be three or four minutes if it catches you, and backs cars up thirty or more deep. For four years now, I've taken the same route to work so it has been easy to learn which lane moves the fastest and at which times of the day. So it seems, not a day goes by that I don't find myself at the "long light" next to someone that passed me earlier on the journey.
Fortunately, road rage is a thing of my past, and personal victories in morning traffic are no longer important. It does feel good though, to be able to leave the vehicle and walk in to work with a spring in my step and a smile in my heart from a fresh reminder that I am indeed a persistent tortoise.