The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Leaving the jet planes and Interstates behind

covered bridge in snowy woodsDriving the Interstate is like flying in a jet liner. There’s a whole world racing past your window, patterns and big green signs with white reflective lettering hinting at places we would like to stop – sometime.[pullquote]… our attention was arrested by a giant cast iron gas pump, about four times taller than I.[/pullquote]

May it please the court, we offer Exhibit A: a road trip I took last Thursday with a fellow photographer.

We drove out to Greensburg, where we had business to perform, on I-76, cruise control set on “Quick,” legal libations close at hand.

“We are going to have to stop there sometime,” one of us said as we blurred by St. John the Baptist church, at the top of a staircase leading from beside the turnpike in New Baltimore.

Business done in Greensburg, near Pittsburgh, we opted for the more leisurely trip home – on U.S. 30 … past Latrobe, the former home of Rolling Rock beer … and stopped for lunch in Ligonier.

Ligonier proper is a small town on the north side of the Lincoln Highway, marked by the reconstructed Fort Ligonier museum that figured prominently in the French and Indian War. Closed during our visit, the fort and museum will open April 18 for public visitation.

The town also is home to the Ligonier Valley Railroad Museum, which we did not visit, and the Kitchen on Main restaurant, which we did.

Owner Terry Johnson invited us inside with a warm invitation during a respite in the snowstorm. There were plenty of appetizing oferings on the menu, but the one that grabbed my attention like the red end of a north-pointing compass needle was Chicken Lollipops. “What are Chicken Lollipops?” I had to know.

I would describe them, but it will be more fun to discover on one’s own. They were worth the stop.

Just east of town, our attention was arrested by a giant cast iron gas pump, about four times taller than I. A plaque proclaimed it one of “Roadside Giants of the Lincoln Highway, designed and built by the Students of the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.”

Farther east we found the Trostletown Covered Bridge, built in either 1873 or 1845 (depending on which reference material one reads) in Stoystown, and the Glessner Covered Bridge, built in 1881. The Glessner, across the Stonycreek River, is one of the few covered bridges I’ve found to allow light modern motor vehicles to cross.

Also in Stoystown, and near the Glessner Bridge, is the Flight 93 National Memorial. Flight 93 was one of four jetliners hijacked September 11, 2001. Two crashed into the Twin Towers of the financial district in Manhattan, New York City. One was flown into the Pentagon, symbolically the head of the U.S. military system.

And one headed toward Chicago, or flew west to turn around and make a run at Washington, D.C. It did not make it to either destination. A group of passengers learned what had happen through cell phone conversations, tried to wrest control of the craft from its hijackers, and crashed into a farm field, killing 40 passengers and crew.

The actual memorial site, comprising a visitor center, a curved pedestrian bridge over a wetland, and a pavilion from which visitors may see the actual point of impact, is two-miles from its new entrance on U.S. 30. The road is curving and paved, and admission is free. National Park Service Rangers and civilian volunteers are available to answer questions.

It was that kind of trip, brief stops as the Lincoln Highway passed through a farm of wind turbines, and past a herd of bison.

The Flight 93 memorial is announced out along the Interstate with PennDOT signs and a few huge billboards, but there is scant mention of covered bridges, the wind farm or chicken lollipops.

For those, you must leave the super-slab and go exploring. It’s worth the slow-down.


  1. Off the main highway is usually the better way to travel to meet people and see interesting places. I’d like to do more of it. When I was a kid our main source of entertainment was Sunday drives. Saw so much of our area that I’d never see again.

  2. I’ve always loved wandering. I’m fortunate to be able to still do it and, sometimes, be paid.

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