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Winding between the parallel I-90 and I-80 turnpikes, US-6 takes its time crossing the Keystone State, following the course of several ancient Indian trails and meandering rivers as the road wanders its way past a dizzying array of industrial wonders, hardscrabble factory towns, drive-in movie theaters, spit-polished diners, and farm-studded mountain valleys.
In the west, the well-maintained two-lane roadway is clearly marked from the moment it crosses the Ohio border, with bright green signs labeling it the "Grand Army of the Republic Highway," a sobriquet US-6 has quietly borne since 1948.
Long before Pennsylvanians got turnpike and motor-touring fever, Native Americans carved twisting footpaths through the shady forests and narrow Allegheny Mountain valleys now navigated by US-6. In the western quarter of the state, the roadbed follows portions of the old Venango Trail, which provided a gateway to Lake Erie for the nomadic Senecas. Centuries before, Uncle Billy Smith and Colonel Drake struck oil along the petroleum-rich beds of Titusville's Oil Creek, igniting a mad frenzy of speculation and boom-and-bust development that left its mark in the smoky refineries and gray, soot-stained towns that dot the craggy western Pennsylvania landscape.
As the rugged Allegheny landscape gives way to the tiny mountain farms and abandoned logging camps of the north-central portion of the state, the two-lane road winds through the bustling Allegheny River towns of Warren and Coudersport, and the New England tidiness of Wellsboro--the gateway to the deep Pine Creek Gorge region known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Continuing east, US-6 suddenly transforms itself into a limited-access, concrete four-laner cutting a wide swath through the tough anthracite coal mining northeastern corner of the state. Here, the post-industrial and home-cooked charms of Scranton provide a welcome excuse for an extended stopover before tackling the monotonous stretch of dank, fetid swamps and wetlands that slope down to the damp, thickly forested Delaware Gap lowlands at the tri-state border of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.
The rigidly straight course cut by US-6 across Ohio's farm-dotted "Western Reserve" immediately gives way to a more casual, winding approach as you enter Pennsylvania, where you are greeted by a large blue sign bearing the state's geographically challenged tourism slogan, "Pennsylvania--America Starts Here," and a more discreet, rectangular, forest-green Grand Army of the Republic Highway marker. The narrow two-lane road, whitened by the ravages of winter storms and de-icing salts, is spattered with syrupy black tar drippings as it descends rolling, shaded hills studded with John Birch Society and gun show billboards near the campgrounds, and bait and tackle shops that service the vast Pymatuning Reservoir recreational area.
Gently twisting past a random mix of roadside hay bales, sweet corn vendors, ranch houses, deer crossing signs, and rusty trailer parks, US-6 becomes a four-lane divided highway with limited-access exit ramps before joining forces with US-322 and dumping you onto a featureless strip where Wal-Mart reigns supreme. This intense dose of highway sprawl marks the western edge of Meadville (pop. 14,300), the "Birthplace of the Zipper" (though invented as early as 1893, hookless slide fasteners did not become a commercial success until the Goodrich Company installed them in its popular galoshes in 1923). To get to the carefully hidden downtown, take Park Avenue past the motels (Super 8, Day's Inn, Holiday Inn) and minimarts that line US-6/322 outside of town.
The Talon zipper plant, which put this shady, peaceful college town on the map, has long since fled for cheap-labor climes. Rather than dwell on this departure, Meadville quietly goes about the business of maintaining its elm-shaded streets, parks, and ample stock of well-preserved 19th-century homes, and feeding off the profitable influx of college students who wander down the hill from Allegheny College's stately grounds to quench their collective thirst at the dark, smoky, working-class bars--like Otter's Pub and Two's Company--and restaurants that line North Street on the northern edge of the small but active downtown. Try the Deerhead Inn, 412 North Street, open 24 hours for cheap but filling spaghetti dinners in a cramped, windowless, and woodsy setting. Those with a ceaseless longing for reassuring dim lights, thick smoke, and loud, loud music will also want to head south of downtown to Theodore's, 964 Park Avenue, affectionately known locally as Teddy's, where a long, well-worn bar, a cooler full of Genesee beers, and a mixed bag of blue-collar locals and slumming collegians are the order of the night.
For a more salubrious educational experience, relax by the gazebo and grassy lawn of Diamond Park along shady Main and Chestnut Streets and take in the 1835 Greek revival architecture of the Unitarian church, before strolling over to view the Market House (continuously occupied since its construction in 1870 and now housing the Meadville Council on the Arts) on Market Street in the heart of the several-block downtown.
John Brown's Tannery
From Meadville, Hwy-77 runs northeast through a 10-mile, two-lane stretch of hardwood forest and rippling cornfields to the tiny crossroads of New Richmond, where Hwy-1033, a well-signed but bumpy dirt road, leads east past several modest homes and truck farms into a wooded clearing where the stone foundations of John Brown's Tannery rise from the grassy meadow floor.
The future abolitionist operated a tannery here from 1825 to 1835--his longest period of continous residence in one place as an adult--after helping found the town of New Richmond with a band of settlers from Ohio's Western Reserve. Brown started the town's first post office and personally carried the mail to and from Meadville, where his outspoken nature almost got him lynched one night by an angry mob of Freemasons. The quick temper and passionate anti-slavery zeal that fired Brown's 1850s raids on Pottawatomie, Kansas, and Harper's Ferry, West Virginia (see page 275), seem like thunder from a distant storm in this quiet glen, where the graves of Brown's first wife and two of his infant sons attest to the hardships of the simple pioneer life he tried to forge from the rugged Pennsylvania wilderness.
Union City and Corry
US-6 is rejoined by its Lake Erie alternate, US-6N. The two roads run together past an Ethan Allen furniture company plant and a one-room local history museum as the highway slows to a tiny, snakelike main drag through sleepy Union City (pop. 3,537), where you are apt to spot several Amish farmers intently going about their in-town business. The peeling, weatherbeaten Union City Dinor at 48 N. Main Street is open Mon.-Sat. 6 AM-2 PM, staying open late for the usual Great Lakes Friday-night fish fry. On summer nights, the Dinor--which is how it's usually spelled here and in neighboring New York--makes a nice warm-up for an old-time drive-in movie up the road a few miles to the east at the Corry Drive-In, which charges just $5 per carload for first-run studio releases (weather permitting). Also in Corry, the Day Lily Inn (814/664-2894) offers affordable overnight accommodations in a modest B&B setting.
Between Corry and Warren, portions of the old US-6 roadway are undergoing major repairs, so be prepared for well-marked but time-consuming detours. The narrow, weed-strewn back roads take you past a tangle of unkempt overgrowth, junked cars, abandoned farmhouses, rust-coated farm machinery, and the occasional satellite dish and mobile home on cinder blocks--northern Pennsylvania's rural interpretation of the suburban ranch house ideal.
Titusville: Birthplace of the Oil Industry
One place that roadtripping travelers through the wilds of western Pennsylvania really shouldn't miss is Titusville (pop. 6,400), the self-proclaimed "Birthplace of the Oil Industry." The fascinating Drake Well Museum (Tues.-Sat. 9 AM-5 PM, Sunday noon-5 PM; $4), a half-mile south of town off Hwy-8, relates the story of Col. Edwin Drake and driller Uncle Billy Smith's 1859 oil strike and the subsequent "black gold" rush it set off in the surrounding hills and creekbeds. A re-created model of the original well still pumps slippery, pure paraffin-based Pennsylvania crude, which you are encouraged to touch and smell by enthusiastic guides with an encyclopedic knowledge of local history and all things related to oil.
The museum also screens a humorously dated, but still entertaining, 1954 documentary film, Born in Freedom, starring a young, tentative Vincent Price as the pensive Drake (who, ironically, never reaped any financial rewards from his efforts and died in poverty in 1880 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) and tow-headed Alan Hale, Jr. (the Skipper in TV's Gilligan's Island) as a beefy, back-slapping drill hand.
The museum also boasts a rich library of oil-related and regional historical documents and early photographs detailing the incredible boom-and-bust cycle that gave birth to the nearby Oil Creek Valley town of Pithole, which saw its population shoot to 15,000 as speculators, con men, and prospectors poured into town to occupy the town's 57 hotels soon after another oil strike in 1865. Having the third-busiest post office in the state in its 1866 heyday, Pithole was virtually abandoned as soon as the oil ran dry in 1867. A free map and tour guide available at the museum direct you through Oil Creek State Park to the original town site, now an empty meadow of grasses and wildflowers.
Back in Titusville, stop at Papa Carone's Restaurant, 317 S. Franklin Street across the Oil Creek bridge (open daily from 11 AM), for a quick pizza slice, meatball sub, or soda.
Perched above the banks of a wide bend in the southward-flowing Allegheny River, downtown Warren (pop. 11,100) is a bustling jewel of Depression-era luncheonettes, dry goods stores, and a well-preserved commercial district in which sun-faded early 20th-century advertisements still adorn the dusty brick facades of many of the town's three- and four-story office buildings and warehouses. Park in the thriving central business district and wander along one of the shady side streets down to the river, taking in the old Liberty Theatre (on 3rd Avenue, now housing community arts productions), the neoclassical public library (on Market Street), and the tin-ceilinged, turn-of-the-century G.C. Murphy five-and-dime store on the corner of Liberty and Pennsylvania Streets.
Take a break with a meal or a cup of coffee at the timeless Busy Bee Restaurant and Lounge, open since 1936 for lunch and again for dinner at 2291/2 Pennsylvania Avenue. Across the street, Roy's Texas Lunch serves up a hearty, cholesterol-rich fare of red hots (hot dogs grilled in the tough western New York tradition), goulash, and macaroni and cheese in a more pedestrian, no-nonsense setting.
The all-purpose Jefferson House Pub and Bed and Breakfast, 119 Market Street (814/723-2268), features a wide array of sandwiches and mesquite-grilled main courses in the main dining room. The wide, wraparound porch that graces the exterior of this restored 1890 Victorian home is a powerful drawing card for those seeking to calm their road-jangled nerves. A Holiday Inn, a Super 8, and the locally owned and operated Penn Laurel Inn (814/723-8300), all on Pennsylvania Street on the western edge of town, offer reasonably priced lodging options.
Approaching Kane (pop. 4,590) from the west, the road rolls unassumingly through a series of farm-laden hills before zipping through a monotonous 20-mile slice of the pine-shaded Allegheny State Forest preserve. Sitting atop a high ridge, Kane's busy turn-of-the-century downtown sports the old Temple Theatre (now doing some prime business with the pre-pubescent crowd as Shirley Temple's Rollerskating Rink), an old McCrory's five-and-dime store, and the wonderful Texas Hot Lunch at 24 Field Street, an early-opening, late-closing bar and restaurant where chili-doused dogs are served hot off the grill with sweet relish, onions, and hot mustard at a price (90 cents each) bound to encourage multiple purchases.
The Kane Motel (814/837-6161) and Kane View Motel (814/837-8600) on the eastern edge of town are both within shouting distance of the turquoise-trimmed, first-run Family Drive-In Theatre on the north side of US-6, a few miles east of downtown Kane.
Kinzua Bridge State Park
At the lonesome, nondescript crossroads of Mount Jewett (pop. 1,000), follow signs along a bumpy, narrow roller coaster of a road to Kinzua Bridge State Park, four miles north of US-6 amid dark pine Deer Hunter-like forest. The park straddles the steep Kinzua Creek Gorge, which was finally spanned in 1882 by the 301-foot-high, 2,053-foot-long Kinzua Viaduct, constructed by the Erie Railroad to extend its economic reach southward into the fertile McKean County coal, timber, and oil fields. At the time, it was the highest railroad bridge ever built.
A short walk over the rough, tar-soaked railroad-tie crosswalk to the center of the bridge leads to an exhilarating view of the dense tree cover leading down the steep slopes to the narrow creekbed. Alternately, the Knox and Kane excursion railroad (814/837-8621 or 717/334-6932) offers a roundtrip package tour from nearby Kane or more distant Marienville for those who want to test the structural soundness of the steel-reinforced viaduct under the weight of a period passenger steam train.
Back on US-6, dilapidated downtown Smethport (pop. 1,734) is home of America's First Christmas Store (800/841-2721), housed in a run-down brick building on the eastern edge of town along Main Street (US-6). If you lose out to your better judgment and find yourself overcome with that holly-jolly feeling, you might want to recuperate with a piece of homemade pie at the Smethport Diner, a modest, white stone structure that entrances weary roadtrippers with the romantic lure of electric candlelight dining.
East of Smethport, which marks the approximate boundary of western Pennsylvania's once-potent oil industry, an endless sea of junked cars, dense forests, and swampy lowland truck farms laps at the roadbed as US-6 passes through the historic Allegheny River ford of Port Alleghany.
Coudersport: The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
In tidy downtown Coudersport (pop. 2,800), a gazebo graces the pretty courthouse square across from the Hotel Crittendon, 133 N. Main Street (814/274-8320), where you can dine, drink, and crash for the night without ever setting foot outside. More reckless grub-guzzlers will want to check out Mickey's Diner and Bakery on E. 2nd Street for a cheap, filling meal, maybe following it up with a beer at the nearby King's Inn, which fronts rustic, damp-looking but photogenic motor court "cottages."
East of Coudersport, US-6 descends into thickly forested piney woods at the northern lip of the Susquehannock State Forest. A 10-mile-long, virtually retail-free stretch of road leads to the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum (daily 9 AM-4:30 PM; $3.50), which pays homage to the region's prosperous mid-19th-century lumber boom. A period logging camp, a two-story mill with circular saw upstairs and steam-powered engines below, and a chestnut log cabin from the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reforestation program are among the 3,000 lumber-related objects on display at this refreshingly self-effacing museum.
The Nine-Mile Lakeside Cottage and Motel (814/435-2394), on the north side of US-6 just east of the museum, features a set of redwood-stained motor court cabins for those who plan to make a weekend out of it.
Continuing east from the museum, US-6 wanders along the wooded Pine Creek Valley through Galeton (pop. 1,370) and the minuscule village of Gaines, approaching the western rim of the grandly named "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania." A six-mile-long, pothole-strewn concrete road leads south from US-6 outside of Gaines to Colton Point State Park, built during the New Deal by the CCC to provide a dramatic alternate view of the gorge's shimmering waterfalls and craggy, tree-covered slopes. Check the weather before making this tough, bumpy detour, however, as even the slightest hint of fog will obscure the expansive vistas and transform the narrow park road into an eerie setting right out of David Lynch's dark, creepy Twin Peaks.
The most popular jumping-off point for tourists who flock to the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania for a weekend getaway, Wellsboro (pop. 3,400) has a gorgeous Main Street business district with a warm, comfortable feel created by the authentic gas-lit streetlights that line the lush, grassy median strip, and by the red neon glow of the flickering sign that fronts the historic, well-worn Penn Wells Hotel.
A free walking-tour guide, available at the visitor center and most of the town's businesses, points the way to Wellsboro's main historic sight, the Lincoln Door House at 140 Main Street, which bears a red door donated in 1858 by then-Illinois governor Abraham Lincoln, whom the house's occupants had known before relocating to Wellsboro from Springfield, Illinois. A casual stroll along the shaded side streets to view some of Wellsboro's historic 19th-century homes is the town's main entertainment option, which otherwise consists of a movie at the one-screen Arcadia Theatre or a drink and a game of pool at the friendly North Star Bar, both on Main Street.
For food, the Penn-Wells Hotel's shabbily elegant Mary Wells Dining Room--which, sadly, bears no relation to the "My Guy" chanteuse--has hearty breakfasts and pricier pasta dinners, but the place to eat is the low-slung, green-roofed, porcelain-plated Wellsboro Diner, 19 Main Street, an immaculately restored Sterling diner car originally manufactured in 1939 by the J.B. Judkins Co. of Merrimac, Massachusetts. The diner closes its doors early, so make a point of grabbing an early dinner, or even earlier lunch or breakfast; if you are going to hang around town for a few hours, they will even custom-bake a pie of your choosing to tide you over for the rest of your trip.
The peeling yellow wallpaper, orange shag carpet, and grease-streaked curtains lining the hallways and rooms of the once-grand Penn-Wells Hotel arouse suspicions that the next wave of renovations are long overdue, and your overnight dollars are better spent at the adjacent Penn Wells Lodge, 4 Main Street (717/724-3463 or 800/545-2446), which has full facilities and rates from under $50 a night. The Canyon Motel, two blocks east at 18 East Avenue (717/724-1681 or 800/255-2718), has bargain-priced rooms from under $30. For something a bit more special, settle in at the cozy, Victorian-style Four Winds Bed and Breakfast (717/724-6141) on W. Main Street.
For more information, contact the Wellsboro visitor center, 114 Main Street (717/724-1926).
The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania
The thickly forested mountain ravine known as the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania" bears little resemblance to the red rocks and more dramatic dropoffs associated with the eponymous Arizona landmark. That said, it's still an impressive sight--especially at sunset--with clouds hovering above its 1,000 feet of pine-covered walls.
To reach the Grand Canyon's eastern rim, take Main Street (SR 660) west out of Wellsboro, past beautiful Victorian homes and through a lush dairy farming district marked by cud-chewing cows and freshly painted barns and silos. The main "entrance" to the canyon is at Leonard Harrison State Park, which provides an easily accessed view of the gorge and a well-maintained trail dropping down to the river. The former Penn Central railroad right-of-way in the base of the canyon is being converted into a cycling and cross-country skiing trail. You can also see the canyon from Colton Point State Park on the west rim (see page 483 for more).
US-6 rolls lazily through a 40-mile stretch of rich dairy farmland and gentle hills east of Wellsboro, through Mansfield and Troy and into Towanda (pop. 3,200), an odd mix of nicely maintained Victorian homes and a no-nonsense, telephone-pole-crowded downtown. Historical markers recite the achievements of Towanda's two most famous residents--19th-century politician David Wilmot, who authored the 1846 anti-slavery document known as the Wilmot Proviso; and composer Stephen Foster, who penned the now-ubiquitous "Camptown Races" while wandering the banks of the Susquehanna River as a student at the Towanda Academy in 1840-41.
You can get just about anything you want--in the way of breakfast or lunch--at Alice's Restaurant, 318 Main Street (6 AM-8 PM, Sunday 8 AM-1 PM). Or check out a movie at the still-operating Keystone Theatre.
From Towanda on down to Tunkhannock, US-6 runs a high ridge above the steep Susquehanna River bed, along the course of an ancient Seneca Indian trail. En route, the road passes within sight of the French Azilum, a short-lived agricultural colony of French aristocrats who fled here after the French Revolution in 1793 in the hope of providing safe harbor for Marie Antoinette and her son, the heir to the French throne. The colony more or less disintegrated in 1803 when most of the nobles were lured back to France by Napoleon's pardoning decree. The Marie Antoinette Overlook, on the south side of US-6 about six miles southeast of the Masonite mill town of Wysox, provides a sweeping view of the patchwork quilt of fertile flatlands on the south shore of the Susquehanna where the remains of Azilum still stand. The five log cabins and a model of the original village, which adjoin a large working dairy farm that extends to the river bank, are being restored by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Though it's just across the river from US-6, extensive detours and road repairs make getting to the actual site a patience-trying endeavor that will eat up at least an hour of roundtrip driving time. The easiest way to get there from US-6 is to take Hwy-187 across the river from Wyalusing, continue for eight miles to Durell, then head west on Hwy-204, following the clearly marked signs to the site.
Tuckhannock and Factoryville
After passing through the false-fronted late-1890s banks and businesses lining the road through Wyalusing, US-6 continues its rapid downhill run to Scranton along a narrow ridge above the Susquehanna, pulling into the pleasant, flag-lined business district of aging lumber center Tunkhannock (pop. 2,251), where a Pampers disposable diaper factory now reigns supreme as the town's largest employer. The Prince Hotel (717/836-2292) in the center of town has a few old rooms upstairs at about $25 a night, within stumbling distance of the lively Red Lion Inn bar that occupies the first floor.
The dense evergreen groves crowding the two-lane road down the sharp, fast descent into the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area are broken by a sign at the outskirts of little Factoryville (pop. 1,310), advertising itself as the birthplace of turn-of-the-century New York Giants baseball hurler, Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, who played for northern Pennsylvania factory and mill teams before establishing himself as the king of Upper Manhattan's Polo Grounds in the early 1900s.
A few miles south of Factoryville, along an abandoned Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad right-of-way, US-6 suddenly widens into a four-lane, limited-access highway split by a steel guardrail median strip, whizzing past a crowded stretch of old motels, supermarkets, liquor stores, and minimarts along the steep Moosic Mountain grade down into Scranton.
The tough, sprawling coal town of Scranton (pop. 81,800) is in the midst of a remarkable revitalization that revolves largely around the successful, sensitively conceived promotion of its mighty industrial past as a regional tourist attraction. Aside from the diverse, engaging museums that celebrate Scranton's historical importance as a mining, manufacturing, and railroad hub, the city lays claim to a AAA minor league baseball team (the Philadelphia Phillies' affiliate, Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons), an architecturally rich downtown, and a savory set of greasy spoons, streamlined diners, dairy bars, and pizza joints.
The town was founded in the 1840s when brothers George and Seldon Scranton and their cousin, Joseph Scranton, started the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company and built the Scranton Iron Furnaces, Lackawanna Avenue and Moosic Street, to produce iron rails for the construction of the Erie Railroad line. The brothers' need for a local rail spur led to the founding of the Delaware part of the Lackawanna and Western line in 1853, and firmly established the city as a major rail producer and railroad hub, a position that grew in importance in the 1890s when Scranton emerged as the center of the country's anthracite coal production.
The old 40-acre DL&W railroad yard and locomotive roundhouse on the west side of downtown Scranton have been exquisitely restored by the National Park Services as part of the Steamtown National Historic Site (for hours and prices call 717/961-2035), which finally opened its doors in July 1995. The sprawling rail yards contain steam-era locomotives, dining cars, and Pullman sleepers in the process of being restored, while a steam-powered passenger train makes short tourist excursions over to the nearby Iron Furnaces. Your time is best spent browsing the brightly lit roundhouse full of fascinating historical and technological exhibits that trace the development of steam railroading and the growth of the DL&W over its century-long reign as the mighty "Road of Anthracite" that, along with the Erie line, linked the key Atlantic and Great Lakes ports of New York and New Jersey to the lumber camps, coal mines, and oil fields of Pennsylvania. No details are spared, down to a glossary of colorful slang expressions from every walk of railroad life that explain why the caboose was known both as a "monkey house" and "brainboat," while "the pig's in the pen" was a downhome way of saying that a locomotive had just entered the roundhouse.
The Anthracite Heritage Museum, northwest of downtown in McDade Park via Scranton Expressway/US 11 to Keyser Street (daily 9 AM-5 PM; $3.50), celebrates the social and cultural history of the Welsh, Polish, Italian, Ukranian, and Lithuanian immigrant miners whose backbreaking labors allowed Scranton's mine owners and railroad barons to reap immense personal fortunes and build grand public buildings and private homes. In addition to detailing the dangerous working conditions and tragic history of the miners' labor movement, the museum tells the painful story of the breaker boys who picked out nonburnable slate from raw anthracite in massive, poorly ventilated coal breaker structures that dotted the Scranton skyline well into the mid-1900s.
Next door to Anthracite Heritage Museum, the Lackawanna Coal Mine Tour (daily 11 AM-4:30 PM; $5) lets you experience the claustrophobia and terror of the miners' daily life firsthand with a railcar trip 300 feet deep into the bowels of a once-active anthracite mine.
All this history and museum-going is bound to make you mighty hungry--a condition Scranton can amply remedy. The Old Forge neighborhood extending west along Main Street a few miles from the Houdini Museum is home to a bevy of Italian family restaurants and bars that dish out the area's locally famous "Old Forge" white pizza--gobs of mozzarella and onions, no tomato sauce. This cheesy concoction cannot be ordered by the slice (the lack of sauce makes it dry out too quickly), and most of the neighborhood restaurants serve it--including Talarico's, 103 S. Main Street, and Arcaro and Genell, 443 S. Main Street--both of which are open only in the evenings. Downtown, Coney Island Lunch at 515 Lackawanna Avenue is the home of the Texas Wiener hot dog, while a five-minute drive on Moosic Street up the hill toward the University of Scranton lands you at the foot of red-trimmed, stainless-steel Chick's Diner, 1032 Moosic Street at Meadow Avenue, a classic all-night eatery with a loud, gregarious local clientele.
A place to appreciate even if you don't stay the night is the restored neoclassical 1908 train station, now the 145-room Lackawanna Station luxury hotel, 700 Lackawanna Avenue (800/347-6888). It summons the grandeur of the steam era with a revitalized Grand Lobby flanked by a set of rare Siena marble walls and mosaic murals. Most of the bargain-priced motel chains (Best Western, Hampton Inn, Days Inn, Red Roof Inn, Econo Lodge, etc.) cluster around Wilkes-Barre's I-81 exit 47. Smaller, locally owned motels line US-6 to the north of Scranton.
Along US-6 north of Scranton, the majestic Circle Drive-In movie theatre (717/489-5731) still shows first-run films high on a hilltop overlooking the Scranton Valley. A prime source of local nightlife and entertainment options is The Weekender, a free weekly newspaper published out of nearby Wilkes-Barre that can be picked up at bookstores, clubs, restaurants, and bars in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre vicinity.
For more information, contact the Scranton/Wilkes Barre visitor center, 222 Mulberry Street (717/342-7711).
East of Scranton, US-6 veers away from the high-speed I-84 freeway, following a slow, twisting two-lane course through rugged anthracite fields and the fading remnants of the once-prosperous coal towns of Jermyn, Carbondale, and Steen. East of Steen, old road markers for US-6's original designation, The Roosevelt Highway, are still visible on the right side of the road, amid the damp undergrowth scuttling up from the creek coursing to the south of the roadway.
In downtown Honesdale (pop. 5,000), the Wayne County Historical Society Museum, 810 Main Street, houses a full-sized replica of the Stourbridge Lion, the locomotive that made the first commercial steam-engine run in the U.S. in 1829 in an effort to tow coal from the nearby mines to the Delaware and Hudson Canal. The Maple City Restaurant next door is a timeworn coffee shop where you can rest and fill your gills with coffee, a burger, and a slice of cherry pie before making the final run through the swampy, nondescript deer hunting area bordering the Delaware State Forest en route to Milford, Matamoras, Port Jervis, and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Just off I-84 at the northern end of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Milford (pop. 1,400) is a cutesy tourist town cashing in on the hordes of rafters, campers, and B&Bers who make the two-hour weekend journey here from New York and Philadelphia.
The Blue Spruce Motel motor court (717/491-4969) and Milford Motel (717/296-6411) on the northern outskirts of town off US-6 are the low-priced alternatives to the higher-brow Tom Quick Inn (717/296-6514) and Demmick Inn (717/296-9363) B&B resorts in the heart of overpriced downtown Milford.
Cool your heels in the air-conditioned comfort of the streamlined Village Diner, open daily 6 AM-9 PM at 620 W. Hartford Street a few miles north of Milford on US-6, which quickly joins with I-84 to cross the Delaware River into New York at Port Jervis.
Milford marks the western junction of US-6 and the Appalachian Trail route, which runs south from here through Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.