We leave “home” again, cross another state border, hide from the Amish, and experience amazing generosity
Day 11 – Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
So the last time I wrote, we were staying with (the incredible) big John, Cindy, Cruise and little John in Hackettstown, NJ, we’ve come a long way since then.
Saying goodbye to the Ruso’s was harder than I’d expected it would be, they treated us so well and did so much for us. I couldn’t list everything for you, but answer me this: would you (or anyone you know) pick two complete strangers up 20miles away from your house, take them in, feed them, drop them back there the next day, take them in again (after they walk to your house), feed them again, then pick them up 20 miles further down the road, bring them back to your house, feed them again, then drop them further along where you picked them up? no? Didn’t think so. These complete strangers (then, not now) looked after us for 5 days without hesitation; and it was only through our absolute insistence that they let us do anything to help around the house (we smashed up and ripped out concrete around their swimming pool – it was more fun than work).
After leaving the Ruso’s we crossed over into Pennsylvania via the Delaware gap. Beautiful. It’s the lushest green that I’ve seen in a while, in fact it looks a little bit like Chamonix during the summer (which made me miss my old flat), and its almost as hilly! We’ve been making ridiculous progress so far, pretty much 20 odd miles a day, and with the added benefit of having amazing people pick us up and take us to their homes, we’ve relaxed in luxury most evenings too (right now I’m drinking the best peanut butter milkshake you’ve ever tasted, courtesy of Andi Biddle)
I wont bore you with long days of endless walking along busy ‘a’ roads, nothing ‘b’ roads, under seemingly endless tree-lines, or beside farm after farm with a giant red barn; instead I’ll tell you about Danny Dyer’s naughtiest religions: the Amish. This mob are old school! No rubber on their tires, don’t use phones (very smart), haven’t got time to be mucking about with chains for bicycles – just use a bloody scooter! Even the locals give this lot a wide berth, (probably because they travel by horse drawn cart and that’s the correct highway etiquette) so you can believe we were keeping our nuts down.
After walking along 80 for quite a while and seeing nothing but road kill, cigarettes and bottles filled with a strange yellow liquid we were desperate to see something different, “the real America” that I’d spoken so much about in interviews before we left. We got off of the highway and were walking through Lamar when we needed to find a place to camp for the night.There was a little community ball park ahead of us not too far from a pretty stream with a large picnic area which looked perfect for us. Kevin (the contact on the sign) we were instructed to contact upon entering told us we could not camp there. Oh well, we still had energy and were prepared to go a little further, but before we could a family (all with dyed blue hair) in the parking lot asked us what we were up to, offered us freezing cold bottles of water (heaven), and informed us of a guy named Howard, “He’s real big keen into boy scoutin’ and such”. He had a big farm and apparently let hikers and passers by camp on his land.
His place was only 100M back in the other direction, then another 50m down a little track. Those 50M seemed to be a portal into the deep south. Hesitantly walking over a bridge guarded by 4 pissed off, rowdy dogs we were met by six or seven good ole boys, a few working on the engines of their pickups, and a few ripping round on dirt-bikes. Howard jr got onto the phone to Howard sr, who wasn’t happy about us staying on his land while he was away, “coz of libility(liability*), y’know?”.
We didn’t realize that across the road from the ball park there was a Jehovah’s witness camp, and once we told them what we were about they were more than happy to let us camp there, as long as we swore that we would bringing no alcohol or marijuana onto the site. After setting up camp we cooked dinner (tuna, pasta and tomato soup, seeing as you asked) and ate it in relative silence. We both admitted to feeling extremely emotional but neither of us could attribute it to anything specific; it wasnt that I was feeling homesick, obviously I missed everyone, but I just felt like I was a very, very long way from home. Watching Anchorman in a small tent was a good temporary cure.
Sunday 9th June we woke up cold and dirty, but feeling somewhat refreshed and energized, ready for the 20 miles of farmland towards Bellefonte, PA where, little did we know, another guardian angel awaited us.
If youre ever in or around central Pennsylvania, make a special trip to visit the Hublersburg Inn, just outside of Bellefonte. Its owned and run by the best milkshake maker I’ve ever met – Andi Biddle. When we came off of the road looking for a place to refill our water and to possibly buy some bread Andi was just driving away from the inn, but she later told us that she thought we looked in need of something so she called the inn’s manager to let her know we were about. When Andi returned she chatted to us about what we were doing, and where we were headed further along the trip; we asked her where we would be able to camp in and around Bellefonte, when she quickly suggested the sofas in her living room. perfect.
Andi’s home (along with being absolutely amazing) is filled with framed photos of family holidays, many of which were to the national parks we cant wait to see. She presented us with two pints of Guinness, and a box of maps for all over the country; we knew what we would be doing for the rest of the evening.
When we woke up on the Monday morning it was bucketing down. absolutely disgusting weather, which we were not looking forward to – then Andi appeared with breakfast and a suggestion, “Why don’t you guys leave your cart in the garage today, go and do your usual miles, then give me a call when you’re done and I’ll pick you up, stay here again, then I’ll drop you off at the same place in the morning?”. So that’s exactly what we did; Like i said, she fits the description of guardian angel.
Its time to walk now, so until next time…