Sunday, October 10, 2010

42 Day Road Trip: Centralia

As luck had it, I didn't work on 42 day! Good for me, because otherwise I would have had to drive all the way from Buffalo, NY to Hellertown, PA in basically one straight shot on the day prior. Instead, I got to break up my driving: Buffalo to Ithaca on Saturday, and then Ithaca to Hellertown on Sunday (42 day) via, appropriately, PA route 42.

Probably the most notable spot along route 42 is the ghost town of Centralia. I've wanted to go for years, and now seemed as good a time as any: no pressing plans for the day, the Pennsylvania hillsides tinged with fall colors, someone to keep me company in case law enforcement or one of the remaining locals got up in my stuff.

Centralia is a ghost town due to a devastating underground coal fire that is still burning to this day. Smoke-bellowing crevices dot some of the remaining roads:

It's creepy as anything. While we wandered around the lot where once there was clearly some kind of building (maybe a house?) a pickup truck and a motorcycle drove by. Both drivers pointedly stared at us, and for a moment I thought I would die right then and there, due to shotgun blast to the head. It didn't help that the short fall day was already approaching dusk.

Proof I was there (sort of): my car is the second one parked there. My partner-in-crime didn't manage to snag any pictures of me.

But nothing happened, of course, and we were content to wander around a small plot that had once been something but was no more. Any further and we were afraid of accidentally trespassing on to posted property.


Any remaining signs of human inhabitance was more along the lines of recent merry-making. My personal favorite was the used tampon; Rob (my partner in crime) was drawn towards the evidence of partying: empty 40s and bottles of beer. Those were certainly less gross to pick up.


But ghosts of Centralia's more legitimate past still lingered. At one point, we came across what we assumed to be a live wire (since it was still attached to the power lines at one end). The other end terminated somewhere in the vacant lot, presumably where it had once hooked up to a house. We also found a couple of rugs from something or other that had not yet finished becoming compost.


A lot of Centralia qualifies as new growth forest, and given a couple more years I'm sure the plant life will take back the pavement as well as the houses. The whole town is like a small, contained sample of the vision posited in The World Without Us


After a couple hours of shooting the breeze and taking pictures, we called it quits. Centralia was still a long way from home, and it was getting dark.


I'm sure there's some great philosophical point to be made about the ultimate answer leading to an empty, abandoned town sitting on top of an eternally-burning fire. We're alone in an uncaring universe slowly decaying due to entropy? Perhaps that's a bit too pessimistic a take. =P

Did you do anything for 42 day?

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