Day 3: February 2, 2010
Only the Groundhog Knows
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Dawn is on a longitude far far away when people start arriving on Gobbler's Knob. Shuttle buses start running at 3:00 AM but I'm sure enthusiastic folks are already there by that time. I arrived a bit after 5:00 and immediately took a couple of pictures to show where I was.

The crowd was already sizable, there were plenty of silly hats, entertainment of a sort, and what I'd consider sufficient media.

Keeping the big and constantly growing crowd entertained and focused is critical and the fellows on stage did an admirable job. There was an "Almost Newly Wed Game", lots of dual purpose dancing (keeps you both warm & busy), some launching of T-shirts from an air cannon, and a parade of guests. My pictures are of someone dressed as a PETA approved animatronic groundhog who was pulled from the crowd, the Groundhog Day King & Queen who lead the dancing, singing, and signing of the Village People's YMCA, some faux Blues Brothers who were actually rather good, and the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club President.

Now and then, an official top hat wearing Time & Temperature Keeper would make a report. The first I heard was 10,000-plus people on the Knob, two hours ten minutes to sunrise, and four degrees Fahrenheit.

A very nice fireworks display lasted more than fifteen minutes and really kept people focus. Music from Star Wars played while rocket exploded overhead though the music and explosions were not actually synchronized.

Now things started building in an organized manner. Stephen Tobolowsky, who played Ned Ryerson in the movie Groundhog Day bravely shed clothing and exposed flesh to do the whistling belly-button trick. Bing!

A young lady whose name I missed did a really good job on the Star Spangled Banner while most men in the audience actually bared their heads. It was a young crowd around the stage and there were some unruly elements but not many. I was impressed by guys tugging off groundhog head hoods to face the flag -- and four degrees. I've seen guys at eighty-degree baseball games who couldn't manage to get their lightweight cap removed.

Then the Inner Circle began to climb onto the stage and they introduced everybody they could find with a top hat. It took a while.

At last the president tapped on the stump door with his magic cane and the handlers crouched down to bring Phil forth. The president and Phil had a brief conference then the proclamation was read. Note that some of these people have been up all night which is why they may look a little blurry.

The sky was a pretty solid grey and I saw neither sun nor shadow but Phil apparently did. Six more weeks of Winter he predicted. Only the groundhog knows the shadow.

Some people hung around to be photographed with Phil but I didn't and neither did the many bus loads in front of me. But there was a constant parade of buses. Things went quite smoothly and, considering the numbers, quickly. It wasn't long until I was back in downtown Punxsutawney and the buses were off on another loop.

There were at least two $5 pancake breakfast operations in town. I picked the one at the Salvation Army. I do have a Groundhog Day tradition that I've followed for many years. I make sure to eat pork sausage (a.k.a., ground hog) sometime during the day. In recent years, that has usually been at a Bob Evan's restaurant either at breakfast or at lunch for a sandwich. The Salvation Army took care of that for me this year with links to go with the pancakes. Apologies to the Salvation Army people for photographing what was probably the worst looking pancake of the morning. That top pancake on my plate suffered some minor damage during production but tasted great and I was too hungry to think of rearranging things for the photo.

It wasn't yet 9:00 and my day in Punxsutawney was pretty much done. After Gobbler's Knob has been emptied, the shuttle continues to connect people with downtown and a remote parking area. An indicator that things taper off quickly once Phil has spoken is that the last bus runs at 2:00 PM.

I had parked at the Wal-Mart south of town on US-119. US-119 seemed to be going the right direction so that's what I started on and what I stayed on through Greensburg. I crossed the Lincoln Highway in Greensburg and thought about it and I also thought about taking US-119 all the way to the National Road at Uniontown. What I actually did, however, was pick up I-70 south of Greensburg for an expedited connection with the National Road at Washington, PA.

In Wheeling, WV, I pulled a block or so off of the National Road to visit the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum. I've been by here when it was closed and know I was in town at least once during its open hours but I'd not been inside. It's in an old school building and is packed with toys. Dolls, doll houses, trains, cars, and action figures abound. There are lots of rather old stamped metal toys. The Union Pacific Streamliner is from 1936. The stove is from the '30s or '40s. There was no date on the windup car with the happy family painted inside. It is a "Toy & Train Museum" and there are several working model train layouts. The bulk of the toys represent those I and my parents played with but the next generation isn't ignored. The sign says that Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots were around in 1965 but my first memory of them is from 1972 or '73 when Santa Claus brought a set for my sons. Big Wheels first appeared in 1969 and I have a very vivid memory of my oldest son on one in the very early '70s. Our driveway sloped from street level to a paved area behind the house. The slope was the perfect place to build up speed and the paved area was the perfect place to lock the front wheel and slide into a donut maneuver. I was working on something behind the house while Cris repeatedly dashed down the driveway and spun around nearby. At the end of one of his better donuts, he looked up at me and with complete and uncanny accuracy said, "Wish you could ride this. Don't you?"

I headed out of town on my favorite bridge then stopped at another favorite and Ohio's oldest. The snow on the deck of the 1828 Blain Hill Bridge and the ice suspended on the hillside provided an image I hadn't seen before. I only have a blurred drive-by shot of the mile stone relocated from the bridge to the roadside west of the 1933 US-40 bridge but it does show the marker completely clear of the vegetation that hides it in the summer.

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