Until this week I thought the Grand Canyon was a unique place in Arizona. The Grand Canyon there is the giant for sure — 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep — but now I have learned about another Grand Canyon — in Pennsylvania. The motorcycle trip started out in cloudy weather but within the first hour we encountered rain — not just a few sprinkles but a steady downpour. By the time we reached downtown historic Tunkhannock the streets were flooded. We found a place to park and went into Twigs Restaurant and Cafe.
I was anxious to check the radar at wunderground.com on the iPhone 4 to see where the storm lines were so I asked the hostess if they had WiFi. Oh, yes we do she proudly announced. Great, what is the SSID? You mean the password? No I mean the name of your wireless access point. Oh, just use “twigs”. Is that with a capital T or lower case? It doesn’t matter. Excuse me, but it does matter. No problem I will try both. Neither worked. Excuse me, is that with one g or two? Just one. Sorry but neither work. Sorry, said the hostess. The owner knows but he isn’t here. Maybe someone else knows? The hostess returned and said it was Twigs1. Nope. No, you need two T’s. I tried TTwigs and Ttwigs, and ttwigs. None worked. The bartender said it is TwigsTwigs1. I tried with and without the 1 but had no luck. The hostess said she had confirmed with the owner that it was correct so if it doesn’t work then you have to contact WiFi! If that doesn’t work try your Internet Service Provider. I explained that the name was set in a little box right there in Twigs and that it was up to them what name they gave it and seems strange that they would want to make it so hard for their customers to use. I finally gave up. At least the food was good. Looking out the window at the downpour and the four of us suited up in our rain gear and headed out into the torrents of rain.
The next hundred miles was more of the same. We could tell that the scenic U.S. Route 6 — more than 3,000 miles long extending from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Bishop, California — offered some great views of the hills and valleys. The stretch of Route 6 we were traveling along the 444 mile long Susquehanna River was beautiful but unfortunately we were not going to witness that on this day and we also needed to keep very focused on the road in front of us. The 175 mile adventure ended in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, a small town of 3,500 people but with a disproportionate number of shops and restaurants to accommodate the tourists who come there to see the Grand Canyon of PA.
First steps for my brother and I and our wives were to check in to the motel, get our motorcycles parked, get a hot shower, and get our rain gear spread out to dry. The motel WiFi was simple and fast and the iPad was great for checking email, the day’s market activities, and the news and weather — no longer a need to travel with a heavy laptop. We headed out with umbrellas to Timeless Destination, a fine Italian restaurant a few blocks from the motel. The food was great and just for grins, I asked if they had WiFi. Oh yes but only the manager knows the password and he isn’t in today! I still stand by my deciiion to have gotten the iPad and the new Kindle (coming in a couple of weeks) with no 3GS, just WiFi. WiFi may not be ubiquitous but it is getting there — with a few exceptions in north central Pennsylvania.
After eggs and potatoes at the Wellsboro Diner in the center of town (did not bother asking about WiFi), it was time to head out west on Route 660 to Grand Canyon. We gambled that we would not need our rain gear and although the weather was not picture perfect we did escape all but a few sprinkles for the day. A short ten mile ride through the hills and valleys brought us to the end of 660 and to the scenic overlook on the east ridge of the canyon in the 160,000 acre park in the Tioga State Forest. I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon in Arizona since I was a child so I can’t compare accurately but the Grand Canyon PA was quite impressive. Also known as Pine Creek Gorge, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is situated along Pine Creek. The Canyon begins near Wellsboro along Route 6 and continues for approximately 47 miles. The maximum depth of the canyon is 1,450 feet and the distance from rim to rim is approximately 4,000 feet. It is worth seeing and with more time it affords some excellent hiking.
The ride back to the Lake gave us the chance to see the scenic overlooks that we had missed during the prior rainy day. Near Towanda in Asylum Township along the banks of the Susquehanna we saw an historical marking that states, “Marie Antoinette Scenic View, 2000 feet”. Turns out that in 1793, during the French Revolution several French loyalists fled France and the French island of Santo Domingo (present-day Haiti) to escape persecution and death for their loyalty to King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. They landed on the shores of Philadelphia where some prominent Philadelphians agreed to finance their stay in Pennsylvania. 1,600 acres in Northeastern Pennsylvania were purchased and given to the refugees. The loyalists traveled up the Susquehanna River to a pristine area in the valley. They had found their safe harbor and named it Asylum. (During the Reign of Terror, at the height of the French Revolution, Louis XVI was deposed and the royal family was imprisoned. Nine months after her husband’s execution, Marie Antoinette was tried, convicted of treason, and executed by guillotine in October 1793.
We stopped in Towanda for lunch. The main street was similar to many towns along Route 6 including it’s own Opera House dated 1886 which is now a hardware store. Unfortunately, the business landscape of rural Pennsylvania and New York reveals many closed retailers and manufacturers. The primary place you see thriving buildings with full parking lots are at schools, hospitals, medical labs and clinics, senior citizen living centers, and various government buildings. I have been fortunate to have traveled to many countries around the world but there is much more to see within a day’s motorcycle ride in the northeast part of America.