Well, I haven’t been too active up here for awhile – things have more or less settled in here in quaint little Palmerton PA. Been working for Lowe’s since January, part time in the Electrical department, in the neighboring town of Lehighton, about 9 miles north. It’s now well into summer-time, and we’re back into the high 80’s and have already had some low 90’s as well.
I recall the movie “Airplane” scene with Lloyd Bridges, where he keeps saying that “I picked the wrong week to give up…”
And it looks like we picked the wrong winter to move to PA. Not really, though. I had never been through a northern winter in my entire life. Oh, I had been in New York, or Colorado, or Illinois during parts of winter time – I saw my very first snowfall when I was 18, at Chanute AFB in Rantoul, Illinois – but I never lived through an entire change of seasons, and experienced the first snows, the storms, the icy roads, the white-outs, and calling out from work because I couldn’t drive our little Escort through 3 feet of the white stuff.
It turned out that this winter, the winter of 2013-2014, was supposedly the worst winter to hit Palmerton in the last 5-6 years. But to me, it was just “winter”…I had expected much worse, like 10′ snowdrifts, being snowed into our little house, having to dig our car out of the snow. Well, actually, I did have to dig the Escort out of the snow several times, but I became very adroit at hefting that snow shovel.
And I became very good at driving in the snow. I skidded one time, on a 8% grade coming home on Christmas Eve (I feel a song coming on…), and that scared me enough to be a bit more judicious on the brakes and a little slower than the posted speed limit. But we got through this “worst winter in years” without any major damage, though the question still comes our way – “Why did you ever move from Florida up HERE?”
Our little Escort has gotten us through a lot since we moved, and it was our only means of transportation for some time. When I got the job at Lowe’s, although it was part-time, I had to use our only vehicle to get back and forth, leaving Jen at home with no way to get around when I was gone. And the Escort is a ’98 model, so it’s got some miles and usage on it, the good thing being all of its time was spent in a Florida climate.
But since we arrived in PA, that little car has felt the move. After spending all of its time on flat Florida roads, it now had to climb and descend not hills but mountains. The drive to Blue Mountain Ski Resort goes from a 440′ start up to a little over 1000′. That engine and transmission have been doing a lot of work, not to mention the brakes – coming down those slopes requires a constant pressure on the “other pedal.” And so it was that our little car decided to let us know it was time for some major fix-up. First were the brakes and tires…and the tie rods up front were worn, so they needed to be replaced. Then it needed a tune-up – turns out that all of the plug wires were arcing and killing the performance. All of the fluids were replaced, and we have always run Mobil-1 synthetic in the car. And then the biggie: the timing belt, which our mechanic said was supposed to be changed after 50,000 miles, was the original belt, and while the mechanic had the hood open, we also had the water pump changed. And of course, the last item, registering the car up here…we had kept our Florida tags on the car mainly because we still had a residence in Florida. But that ended a few weeks ago – more on that later. I did not know that our Florida title had to be switched to a PA title, even though we own the car outright, but $146 later, we now have PA tags and registration.
So now, over $2000 later, the Escort is ready for our next year here in PA. It should be good to go next winter. And since we own it outright, it was a lot cheaper to fix it up then to buy another car.
But we needed another car. Not to replace our Escort, but another vehicle that Jen could drive, something that would be a bit bigger, with 4-wheel drive for those winter snows we get up here. Jen shopped around and found a great buy – a ’98 Ford Explorer, with low miles, cold A/C, great paint, fully loaded, great rubber, and a V-6 engine. This vehicle had been garage-kept and the owner had never driven it in the snow – it was immaculate. And the price was great, too! Now we have 2 very dependable cars, including a winter-ready truck.
Anyway, we got through the winter without any major damage. Aside from (more than) a few sore backs from wielding the snow shovel, winter turned to Spring, and another “first” occurred: I got to watch our mountain turn back to the lush green that it had been months before when we arrived. I never knew trees could replenish their leaves so fast. In Florida, trees simply do not shed – I take that back: our willow and winged elm did lose most of their foliage in the winter months, but that was the exception.
Now the trees out front were springing back to life…it seems like every morning when I looked out our bedroom window, there were more leaves. The squirrels were back in action, and it seemed that they were actually playing in the branches; I hadn’t noticed them before, but now there were at least a half dozen zipping up and down the trees and in and out of the parked cars on the street below. I just knew that one or more of them was going to pay the price for that, but I never saw any “roadkill” on our street…guess those squirrels knew the neighborhood.
And what was leaves all over the ground in fall now became blossoms and seed pods all over our front walk. This time I used a broom instead of a rake, but it was still clean-up time again. And it has stayed fairly cool as we headed toward summer – right now, as I write this, it’s late July and we’re still getting evenings in the 50’s! I love it! But I am remembering that when we arrived last year, it was in the 90’s, and I’m not looking forward to the hotter temps. At least, I won’t melt…I’m a Florida cracker, and the heat just doesn’t faze me much at all.
Of course, some other things have changed in this time period. Our little grand-daughter Penny, who was born on the 26th of this month, has reached her first birthday. And she has been walking for several weeks now, and is on the verge of talking, too. I have been “grilling” her on the most important word in her vocabulary: Grandpa! So far, though, she only points at me and exclaims, “DAH!” At first, we thought she was referencing her Daddy, but she seems to call most men “DAH!” I have a picture of myself on my Harley hanging in my den, and she points to it and says, “DAH!” Try as I might, I couldn’t get her to say, “Harley!”
I am learning my way around the area, but it behooves one to own a GPS around here. There are few highways, and many different ways to get from Point ‘A’ to Point ‘B’, most of which require bob-sledding skills. When one is driving down a 6% grade with constant switch-backs and hairpin turns, the brake pedal becomes the only control in the car. I know that we will be replacing the brakes on a very regular basis up here, because my foot hardly leaves that left-hand pad on the floor. Of course, going UP-hill is just as interesting. On my way to work, I have had to take a detour because of bridge work on my normal route. This trip takes me up and over a mountain, where the beginning elevation of 400′ tops out at 950′ before it heads back down again, all within 5 miles. My poor little 4-cylinder Escort pants and puffs its way up the grades, and then it’s brake-pedal time down the other side.
But I can attest to the fact that it’s some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. At the top of my current drive to work, I can see the mountains for 20-30 miles! They’re old mountains, not the craggy peaks like the Rockies, covered in green and rolling up and down as far as one can see. Sometimes, I get the feeling God must have had when he was doing His creation thing, and looked at His work and grinned! I spent all of my life in good ol’ flat-as-a-pancake Florida, and never saw the beauty I am seeing now. It was time to move, and I just happened to land in some of the best scenery in America.
Matter of fact, the Appalachian Trail runs right down the spine of the mountain in our back yard, and I am planning on hiking at least that part that runs from the Blue Mountain Ski Resort to the Lehigh Gap. Palmerton is a very popular rest stop for those hiking the Trail, and we see them in town all the time. There’s free lodging for them in town, which requires them to register before going up the mountain. So I can take in a little bit of historical significance, right where I live.
As we’ve lived here, I’ve looking into the town’s history, and we live in a Super-Fund site…yikes! I may have posted the history previously, but here’s another little tidbit about Palmerton, for those interested: Things to Do & See in Palmerton.
All in all, I do not miss my old birthplace state. Although I lived there for 66 years, I feel as though I am at home here in PA, as though I never left. Much of that feeling comes from the love of a wonderful woman, my wife Jen. When she came to live with me in Florida over 17 years ago, she never felt like she belonged there, and never gave up thwe thought of someday going back to PA. And I promised her continually that she would indeed go back one day – I just could never promise a date. News of Penny’s impending birth proved to be the catalyst that got us going, and after a year’s preparations, we made that final drive that put us where we are today. And I can say that all of my hopes and prayers were answered – Penny was born a wonderful, lovely and happy little baby, and we have grown to love our little row-home in downtown Palmerton, with its view of Blue Mountain and little Aquashicola Creek slowly trickling through our back yard, and the most important thing of all, Jen is so happy to be “back home” and really getting into taking care of 6 of our grandchildren (Anthony is 19, and can take care of himself)!
Incidentally, our home in Florida finally sold, and since we were no longer property owners down there, Jen decided she could no longer hold onto her FL driver’s license, so she went and got her PA ticket. We are now both officially (and legally) Pennsylvanians. To anyone out there who can remember Glenn Miller, we wish our phone number could be Pennsylvania 6 – 5 – oh, oh, oh!
And me? Well, I’m working part-time at the Lehighton Lowe’s, enjoying the small-town atmosphere of my new home, and flying here and there with my flight simulator (my hobby of choice). Part of my sim (MS FSX, for those interested) is photo-realistic scenery for the states of Florida, New Jersey, and of course, Pennsylvania. I fly out of my nearest airport in Slatington in my A2A Cessna 172 and fly around the area here. It’s a very nice way to see the mountains and valleys and farms as they are from the air, and I always get a kick out of entertaining visitors by showing off my piloting skills and flying over our little house in Palmerton. Most of them have never seen the town from the air.
And so – Happy 1st Anniversary here in Palmerton, and a Happy 1st Birthday to our little grand-daughter Penelope Lane Loper. I am sure that there will be many more anniversaries (and birthdays) to come.