Day 2: June 23, 2005
Two of the Oldest



Sometimes it just seems right to start the day with a beer. Today was one of those times and the beer in question is Yuengling - the oldest in the country. D. G. Yuengling started his brewery in Pottsville, PA, on the sight where Schuylkill County courthouse sits today. A few years later, he moved the operation to what is now the corner of Mahantongo and 5th streets where it remains. The building just across the street from the plain brick structure with the painted on Yuengling name is a bit fancier and bears the name formed in concrete. Also formed in concrete are the words "ice cream" and "dairy products". This once held the ice cream factory that Yuengling started during prohibition. Production was stopped after beer was again legal and profitable. Today, the building sits empty. The gift shop shares space with a museum displaying items from the brewery's 176 year history. This is also the staging area for factory tours but the tours actually begin in the nearby bar. There our guide Vicky told us about the company's history and product. At her request, I took no photos of Vicky. The bar was originally built in 1936 as a spot for employees to enjoy their officially sanctioned beer breaks. We will return here for samples at the end of our tour.

The room holding the large vats is illuminated by light coming through the stained glass skylight. This was originally clear glass but was changed to stained glass to reduce glare coming off of copper. The vats are now stainless steel but the functional and attractive glass remains. Before we entered the bottling/canning room, Vicky explained its operation and gave us some very important advice. Soap is used as a lubricant for the bottles following a complex path through the room. In spots, white foamy liquid drips from the equipment. Vicky's words of wisdom: "Don't drink the soap." Kegs are no longer filled at the Pottsville brewery. All draft production comes from newer breweries in Tampa, FL, and St. Clair, PA. A 'U' shaped manmade cave lies beneath the brewery. Created as a big beer cooler, it was sealed off by brick walls during prohibition. By the time it was reopened, artificial cooling was available and the cave is no longer used.

I left Pottsville on US-209 and headed west. The route ends in Millersburg on the Susquehanna River and my Delorme Street Atlas showed a dashed line crossing the river. Maybe there would be a ferry there. Maybe not. In Millersburg, it was immediately apparent that there was no ferry. I had a backup plan, PA-147 south, but before I activated it I did some research in the Millersburger Hotel. One fellow remembered when there was a ferry but it had been awhile. He was at least forty and could have been a decade or so older than that. According to him, the ferry last ran when he was about fourteen. PA-147 it is.

ADDENDUM: 24-Jun-07 - Guess you can't believe everything you hear in a bar. I just received a note telling me that the Millersburg ferry is alive and well and runs May through October. I know that doesn't jive with its perceived absense in June of 2005 or the Millersburger patron's report but it's true and a telephone call to (717) 692-2442 will get the current schedule. Thanks to Carly for catching the error and for providing this link to some history.

PA-147 follows the Susquehanna south and there are occasional glimpses of the river. It hits US-22 about a dozen miles from Millersburg and I followed the US route over the river and to the Altoona area.

It seemed like a good day to check out the world's oldest roller coaster. I was aware that this claim was made for a coaster at Lakemont Park but knew little else. I found the park and even found the coaster. That's it behind the Twister and in the first up ramp shot. "Leap the Dips" was erected in 1902 and is currently being refurbished with hopes of running sometime this year. That it wasn't running was one of the things that I didn't know so I was a little disappointed. But there is another real (i.e., wooden) coaster in the park and I headed there. There is no admission charge to the park. You can buy an all day pass for $7.95 or pay per ride. I bought six 50¢ tickets which was enough for two rides on the Skyliner. Wednesday is "dollar day" and I understand that the place was packed. Today it seems almost empty and I was probably the only person without an all day wrist band. I was also one of the few people there, visitors and employees, with my teenage years far behind me. That last point was underscored by a conversation with the two Skyliner operators. Yes, Leap the Dips was the age champion but their coaster was old, too. "How old?" I asked, After a little thought, one of them solemnly reported, "Pretty old. At least 20 years, I think." And it's still standing!!!

Then it was back to US-22 west bound. I had caught something about a car show in a town called Ebensburg so headed that way when the exit came up. The event was named Wheels & Wings with the wings coming from several hot wing vendors. There were lots of people standing in line plus music from Billy and the Inmates. There were even some cars and motorcycles on display but most of the motorcycles present belonged to attendees, many of whom were standing in line for chicken wings. Slowly I started to realize that something big was going on. I had seen electric signs along the road with "Motorcycles are everywhere" safety slogans. I had noticed several groups of ten to twenty riders during my afternoon drive. But it took actually reaching Johnstown and seeing a Thunder in the Valley banner for it to sink in. It was back to US-219 and a Super 8 motel room. "Motorcycles are everywhere".

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