Thursday 30th July –Saturday 1st August-Pennsylvania and Maryland by Helen

We have covered a lot of miles over the last two days crossing from New York State, heading west through Pennsylvania and then south into Maryland on our way to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the Smoky Mountains of Georgia.

Following a realisation of how just vast the country is and how long it takes to get places, it feels good to have those miles behind us, knowing that tomorrow, we will finally be in the mountains. The long ride has tired us out and today we are having a day off to chill and explore a bit.

Pennsylvania is big. The 500 odd miles that we have crossed, all look the same. Like this…

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…and then this

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… and a bit of this…

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SAMSUNG CSC

That is not a bad thing. The area is very rural and lushly green. Cornfields give way to Dutch barn shaped houses and barns, often painted red. Houses all seem to display a huge wooden or metal star which is a good luck symbol, brought from Germany. A lot of the landscape is uncultivated with woods and fields of wild flowers. The first day we hardly saw a soul as we rode through the rest of the Catskills and wound our way through rural Pennsylvania.

We got wet for the first time and tried to take shelter, against our better judgment, in a McDonalds but the air conditioning was so glacial that it was more comfy to wait outside under the porch. The people in the US are pretty friendly but we started to notice them being more so. A young guy leaving McDonalds greeted us with “ I hope the rain stops for you folks soon”. People also seem to be getting more polite. Rather than just asking where you are from they say “ do you mind if I ask where you are from?” which is cute and reminds me of the Brits who say “I’m sorry to bother you but would it be possible to have another cup of coffee?”

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Entering Maryland the homes instantly looked poorer than those we were used to seeing. Single storey dwellings like large sheds, some with porches and rocking chairs were dotted around. The landscape is hillier than Pennsylvania, being the start of the Appalachian Mountain chain, and thickly forested. This morning we left the campsite early to seek breakfast, as the highly chlorinated water on site was undrinkable. We happened upon a traditional diner in the middle of nowhere. This was our first diner experience. It was exactly as you would imagine and as we had hoped. You could sit at the counter or at tables. The bottomless coffee mug cost $1.50 and the elderly waitress was warm and friendly, offering us a free glass of water and telling us a story about a couple of customers in a soft top car who she worried might have got wet . When Dave let her refill his coffee mug she looked at him and smiled like her was her grandson. Needless to say there was not much on the menu we could eat. Breakfast here is the US revolves around eggs done in 50 different ways. There were also waffles and bacon with syrup. We loved the place so much that we were happy to leave hungry.

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The town of Oakland is a simple place with a few historic buildings and close links to the Civil War. As we walked down tiny Main Street, every single person spoke to us. Even the policeman waved as he drove by. The accents have started to morph into a slight southern drawl too. A lady called out from her car that the railway station opened at tayen O’clock.

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On the campsite here in Maryland, the people are less friendly. Mostly locals, weekending with huge RVs, some as big as a small house and equally large log piles for their campfires, they tend to keep themselves to themselves. One family had a 9 year old boy with a red Mohican. I was impressed with how wholesome it all seemed until we woke up on our second morning to find a tiny, anti-Islamic comic placed on our picnic table overnight. As I went to the shower, I kept looking around wondering who was responsible and the whole place took on a more sinister feel, which is a shame.

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