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      08-27-2011, 09:10 PM   #1
Rick F.
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Sometimes They Come Back To Life…

My 2006 BMW Z4 can find abandoned houses, lost churches, forgotten forts, and other remnants of cast-off civilization practically all by itself. And the Mid-Atlantic region is the place to look. But once in a rare while, one of these decaying places is brought back to life. On this trip through Pennsylvania, I was lucky to stumble across several such revitalizations—not to mention signs of Christopher Columbus himself.

Interested? Read on!

On the last day of July, I set out for Bedford Springs, PA to start a tour drawn from Motorcycle Journeys through the Appalachians, by Dale Coyner. His recommendations have never disappointed me in the past, and this trip turned out to be outstanding. My first planned destination was the abandoned Bedford Springs Resort Hotel, described by Dale as "At a distance, Bedford Springs Resort looks like a nice place to stay. Up close, you'll find it's deserted."

As I was driving along a narrow, winding road that bordered a creek, I was passed by a young fellow on a Honda CBR1000RR. As he roared by, winding out through the gears, I guesstimated his speed to be at least 100 mph (based on high rev's in 4th gear). Okay with me, although there was only a limited line-of-sight available. Too little, as it turned out, for him to spot the County Mountie who was parked around the very next corner and who promptly pulled him over. It's not every day that a True Squid gets a ticket within seconds of his mischief. Ah, the mysteries of life…

As I continued on my way, this colorful log cabin demanded attention:



The Bedford Springs Resort began life 1796 and quickly became a popular place to take the healing waters. By 1840, it had grown to a sweeping collection of buildings.



President James Buchanan used the resort for his summer White House during 1857-1861 and in 1858 received the first ever trans-Atlantic telegraph message here, from Queen Victoria of England.



This, apparently, was how people had a good time in the late 1800s…



After the Pennsylvania Turnpike bypassed Bedford Springs, however, the resorts fortunes began to fade. Adding injury to insult, a major flood in 1883 result in water pouring through the hotel's main lobby. By 1990, it was bankrupt, empty, and abandoned, as shown in these photos by Debbie Ziegler.




Imagine my surprise, then, when I pulled up outside of the Bedford Springs Resort only to find that not only was it no longer abandoned, it was thriving! The resort was purchased in 2007, and a 3-year, $120-million restoration has brought it back to life—and a stunning place it is.




Indoors, it was every bit as beautiful as outdoors.




These English Mastiffs are apparently admiring the tile work on the floor.



All in all, Bedford Springs is now on my must-do list of places I want to stay. What an extraordinary return from the dead. (Speaking of which, the hotel takes great pains not to mention it, but over the years there have been a very large number of ghost sightings here!) (Don't say I didn't warn you.)


Back on the road, I drove through the middle of Bedford, finding no shortage of beautiful homes, churches, and other buildings.





My favorite, however, was a dusty, forgotten-looking automobile showroom. Through the windows, I could see a sizable number of collectible American sedans and convertibles, and even a Schwinn Black Phantom bicycle in outstanding original condition. While the town looked right out of the 1800s, the showroom looked unchanged from the 1950s.



Where there's an old mill…



…there's bound to be an old mill stream.



Inside the concrete-block outbuilding, this old tractor was waiting for someone to put air in the tires, gas in the tank, and to go back to work. But what was the purpose of the "fifth wheel" steel saw??



Continuing north, in the general direction of Penn State University, Dale's route took me past beautiful farms and other vistas.



In Williamsburg, PA, I wondered whether anyone is still brave or foolish enough to try to use these steps on a regular basis.



A bridge spanned this little reservoir, which channeled Clover Creek through the town.



Before I'd taken even a single photo, I was besieged by ducks, all apparently looking for a handout.



Unfortunately, I had nothing to give them, no matter how cute they looked or how many tricks they performed. (Or was that last fellow just expressing his opinion of anyone who failed to feed him?)




On the other side of the bridge, this stately mansion looked out over a narrow canal, filled with the most colorful pond scum I'd ever seen.




Before I knew it, I was crossing the Little Juniata River at the town of Spruce Creek, with its scenic United Methodist Church tucked next to the bridge.




I began to realize that, only a fraction of the way into the 240-mile tour, that I was seeing more beautiful and unusual things than I knew what to do with. I could have easily spent 2 or 3 full days, rather than a measly 12 hours.





While stopping for the preceding photo of either (i) the world's smallest general mercantile store, or (ii) the world's largest BMW Z4, I heard a distinctive 4-cylinder puttering sound. I looked up in time to catch this Model T Ford motoring by sedately—followed by a half-dozen sportbikes, impatient at the 25-mph pace. (They later politely passed the T in a proper passing zone, turn signals, waves, and all, demonstrating that not all sportbike riders are Squids.)



Did I mention that it was a beautiful day? Sunny, bright, temperatures in the low 70s in the morning, although warming up to the low 90s by the time I got to Penn State.



Before tackling Penn State, however, I reached my primary destination—the historic little town of Boalsburg, PA. Named after the Boal Family, the town was founded in 1809 and originated the practice of Memorial Day. Various Boals fought in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the Civil War (Captain John Boal, in this instance, who did not live to tell about it).



All told, eight generations of Boals have lived there in the same home, although it's expanded considerably over the years. The downstairs part of the mansion is now a museum.




The Boal Mansion Museum turned out to be a wonderful treat, with an eclectic collection of fascinating items on display. I quickly lost count of the items and artifacts that the tour guide described—but the list included letters from at least 5 different Presidents, a lock of Napoleon Bonaparte's hair, the piano that Dolly Madison had to sell when funds got tight at the White House, miniature coffins from King Tut's tomb—Theodore M. Boal was part of the team that discovered the tomb—the official coronation painting of Queen Isabella II of Spain … well, you get the idea. And there was a story behind every article. Queen Isabella II was a descendant of Queen Isabella I, shown below, who funded Christopher Columbus' journey to America in 1492—but we're getting ahead of ourselves.


The bad news was that photographs were not allowed in the museum. That's understandable, since otherwise I would still be there, snapping away. Here are a couple of pictures from their website. The first shows the ballroom (with Queen Isabella II's portrait just right of center), and the second is an impressive display of armament collected by various Boals over the years, including all of their own weapons. (Not shown in this picture is a massive rifle—the largest I'd ever seen—that turned out to be an anti-tank rifle from World War I. Its bullets could pierce 3/4-inch steel plate.)


The house and outbuildings would have easily been worth the $10 admission. But then we came to the Columbus Chapel, and I quickly realized that I hadn't seen anything yet. In 1894, Theodore Davis (Terry) Boal married Mathilde Dolores Denis de LaGarde of France. Although he doesn't look it in this photo, Terry was quite an adventurer in his own right, receiving both the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star for his actions in World War I. Mathilde was a distant relative of Christopher Columbus of Italy and, in due course, she inherited many Columbus family treasures.



Not the least of these treasures was the interior of the Columbus Family Chapel, which Terry and Mathilde had disassembled and brought to the U.S. in 1909! A replica of the chapel itself was built on the grounds of the Boal estate, and the original interior was installed inside.



The door to the chapel had been carved by hand in the 1400s.



Here is the interior, as pictured on the museum's website. The altar, paintings, and other furnishings were all masterpieces. No kidding, it was stunning. And that was before my guide pointed out the sea captain's desk/chest shown on a table to the right, which belonged to Christopher Columbus himself. And before he opened a door to one of the confessionals, which now house over 150,000 pages of Columbus Family papers from as far back as the 1450s (each page of which has been microfilmed by Penn State researchers). And before he indicated the small silver cross on the altar, with its two embedded pieces of wood from the True Cross of Jesus, as certified by an ancient parchment document hanging on the wall. (I was too stunned to see who actually certifies something like this. The True Cross is said by ancient scholars to have been found by Empress Helena, later Saint Helena (c. AD 250 – c. AD 330), although some accounts credit her son, Emperor Constantine.)



All in all, it was staggering. On my way into Boalsburg, I stopped at the city hall to apply for adoption by the Boals…

Okay, I made that last part up. But the town itself was also enjoyable. The Zion Lutheran Church has stood proudly near the Boal home since 1864, having replaced the "Stone Church" from 1825, which itself succeeded an earlier building from 1794.



Duffy's Tavern was gutted by fire in 1934, after having operated for 115 years, and looked to be lost to the world forever after. Like Bedford Springs, however, it was brought back to life and is now a thriving restaurant.



After looking around the rest of the town, it was time to head for State College, PA and the mighty Penn State University. Interestingly, PSU got its start in the mid-1850s when one of the Boals decided that the area would benefit from a school of agriculture. He donated the land to start the school, and, before you knew it, the school evolved into today's Penn State. With a campus roughly the size of Delaware, I couldn't begin to visit all the buildings and parks. But I did my best. This is the Old Botany Building.



I thought maybe this was the University President's home, but I believe it's "just" one of the fraternity buildings. (!)



This is Old Main, one of the largest buildings on the campus.



With my usual awareness and deep-rooted knowledge of my surroundings, I didn't realize until later that this was the back of Old Main… The front of the building was even grander, as shown in this aerial photo:



And this is the reason that every warm-blooded American guy wants to go to Penn State. Yes, it's the Nittany Lion, mascot for the University's sports teams and an inspiration for all! Unfortunately, the statue was cluttered up a bit by these shy, retiring students.



It's very hard to tell where the Penn State campus stops and the town of State College begins—they're very much intertwined. I have it on the authority of my friend Cathy, whose son Eric is a PSU student, that the Corner Restaurant is the best in town.



By now it was nearly 4:00 PM, and I was only halfway through my trip! While tempted to stop for a snack at the Corner, I turned south and pressed on instead. Route 26 is a beautful, winding road that runs all the way back to Interstate 68 in Maryland. I enjoyed the up's, down's, corners, and vistas that it offered, and the Z4 was excited to have some exercise, after plonking around Boalsburg and State College for the last couple of hours. Needless to say, I stopped for an occasional photo, such as the Ennisville Methodist Church…



…an old factory in Huntingdon…



…and this not-so-old car hidden in an old barn. (Nuts; why couldn't it have been a pre-War Aston Martin roadster?)



Naturally I had to turn away from my path and follow Captain Phillips Monument Road to see what might be there. Sure enough… In 1780, Captain William Phillips, his son, and 10 rangers were attacked by a band of about 60 Indians. They defended themselves, but being vastly outnumbered and with their shelter set on fire, Captain Phillips surrendered. He and his son were bound and taken prisoner to Detroit. The 10 rangers were tied to trees, scalped, shot with 5 arrows each, and left to die. The monument stands where the fight occurred.



With the sun beginning to set, I stopped in Riddlesburg, just to see what a town with such a name would look like. I quickly realized that I'd been there before. But the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River was still picturesque.



Given the time, I vowed to get moving and not to make any more stops. Passing through Everett, however, I spotted a local car show. I knew a Studebaker when I see one, but someone will have to help me with the year and model of this one.



Of course, everyone knows (and likes) a 1932 Ford.



My favorite car at the show was this 1936 Ford. I'd guessed it was a 1937, but its proud owner set me straight. After coming home from Europe following World War II, this gentleman bought his first car—a used blue 1936 Ford sedan, just like this one. He's owned this car for about the last 4 years, and he said he loves every minute that he drives it, works on it, or just looks at it. I'm sure it's brought back many a memory.



I don't know what year or make this hot rod started life as, but it was so beautiful that I couldn't resist removing the cluttered background and dramatizing the photo a bit. What do you think? Chevrolet? Pontiac? Aston Martin?



I continued to enjoy Route 26 as the shadows lengthened, and I eventually arrived at Scenic Route 40, completing the tour. Of course, I still had another 100 miles to drive back to Catonsville, but it gave me time to savor the sights I'd seen. I'll leave you with two more of them—and encourage you all to get out there and see where yourBMW can take you!



Rick F.

Last edited by Rick F.; 09-22-2015 at 05:33 PM.
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      08-27-2011, 10:08 PM   #2
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Rick thanks!
Great roadtrip/great description. Feel like I have ridden with you!

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      08-28-2011, 01:48 AM   #3
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Great scenery. I love your road trips You also have a good eye for framing a shot. I think half the fun of owning a roadster is sometimes cruising slow and taking the back roads to get there ............. so much more to see and enjoy!

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      08-28-2011, 04:16 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 2mnycars View Post
Rick thanks!
Great roadtrip/great description. Feel like I have ridden with you!

Dave Lynch
Dave,

Thanks--it was good to "have you along" on the trip!

Rick
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      08-28-2011, 04:18 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antennahead View Post
Great scenery. I love your road trips You also have a good eye for framing a shot. I think half the fun of owning a roadster is sometimes cruising slow and taking the back roads to get there ............. so much more to see and enjoy!

John
John,

Thanks! It was hard to take a bad shot on this trip, given all the interesting and scenic things along the way.

You're 100% right about the fun of a roadster. Plus, it's a lot easier to spot fun things when you can see in so many different directions.

Rick
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      08-28-2011, 06:00 PM   #6
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Beautiful pictures and great story telling
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      08-28-2011, 07:56 PM   #7
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Wow, as always, it's so much fun to ride along!

I totally agree, you could have spent days on this particular stretch. What fantastic finds!
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      08-29-2011, 11:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Beautiful pictures and great story telling
Qkid,

Many thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the report. It was great fun, even though the second half of the trip was a bit compressed. (All the more reason to go back and do that part properly.)

Rick F.
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      08-29-2011, 11:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
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Wow, as always, it's so much fun to ride along!

I totally agree, you could have spent days on this particular stretch. What fantastic finds!
Finnegan,

Glad to have your "virtual company" on the trip!

What I really wanted to do was to flag over the driver of the Model T and swap rides with him for a ways. I've always wanted to drive one, in part because the hand and foot controls are completely different from later, modern cars. And the chance to drive a Z4 roadster might have been just the inducement for the T's owner!

Maybe the next time...

Rick
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      08-30-2011, 12:51 PM   #10
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WOW!

It would be truly awesome if a bunch of us, with Rick in the lead, could get together for a group run on one of the amazing routes Rick has discovered.
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      08-30-2011, 11:28 PM   #11
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Rick, thanks as always for these great road trip reports. You have missed your calling- you would be a natural at leading these great tours for groups! By the way, whatever happened to Phillips and his son?
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      08-31-2011, 10:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huz-Z View Post
WOW!

It would be truly awesome if a bunch of us, with Rick in the lead, could get together for a group run on one of the amazing routes Rick has discovered.
Huz-Z,

That does sound like fun--and think of how impressive it would look to have a photo of 50 Z4's lined up around an old mansion!

Of course, the one scenic tour I led with a bunch of motorcyclists ended up with a thunderstorm and driving downpour. We were a soggy bunch by the time we reached a restaurant for lunch. But everyone had a good time, anyway.

Rick
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      08-31-2011, 10:37 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teezee View Post
Rick, thanks as always for these great road trip reports. You have missed your calling- you would be a natural at leading these great tours for groups! By the way, whatever happened to Phillips and his son?
teezee,

I'm really glad you enjoyed the write-up. All the routes seem to turn out to be very interesting, and this one was better than average.

As for Captain Phillips and his 14-year-old son, Elijah, I should have added that they were taken to Detroit and eventually freed, so they lived to tell about the torture and massacre they witnessed. Captain Phillips regretted his surrender to the Indians for the rest of his life, although he really had no choice.

Rick
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      09-01-2011, 11:05 AM   #14
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Rick, like so many others on here, I enjoy your tours. While my pictures are not as beautiful as yours, nor are my trip reports as interesting to read as yours, I do however have one thing in common with you! I love the Backroads!

Thanks for all your efforts! I look forward to the next one!

Al
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      09-01-2011, 01:25 PM   #15
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Thank you for the pictures and the history lesson. I've lived in S. FL so long, it's nice to see some American history.
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      09-01-2011, 03:04 PM   #16
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Awesome pictures, history, trip and storytelling!! It's great to get off the freeways and onto the winding backroads. So much more to see there.
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      09-06-2011, 10:29 AM   #17
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Awesome job as usual. The Studebaker is very similar to our '58 Silver Hawk, though ours had "wings" on the fender-mounted turn signals. Could be a '59(?)

I learned to drive in the Stude, and also learned left-foot brake application; the low steering wheel and floorboard-mounted brake pedal caused me to slam my knee into the wheel when I removed my foot from the throttle to the brake. Ergonomics had not been invented yet!
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