Day 3: June 24, 2005
Dam, Incline, & Lincoln



Over a century after it happened, Johnstown, PA, is still known for the flood of May 31, 1889. There is a national park where the infamous Lake Conemaugh once stood and there is a memorial and museum in downtown Johnstown. Because of the still growing Thunder in the Valley, I considered skipping Johnstown completely but decided to at least see how things looked at the park. The park opens at 9:00 AM and I was there just a few minutes after nine. There were a couple of cars and a couple of bikes in the lot but the visitor center was all but empty. In fact, I was the only audience for what I assume was the day's first showing of a movie describing the flood. The movie has plenty of information but I found the triangular 3-D map easier to follow. While a narrator tells of the events of that day in 1889, the events are marked on the map with small lights. The lake and the dam that held it were owned by the South Fork Fishing and Hunting club. The visitor center is next to the house where club president Elias Unger lived and the restored house now serves as park offices. That's the Unger house in the second picture with remnants of the earth dam visible in the background. In the picture, the sign at the right is almost directly below the spot where the center of the dam once stood. What is left of the south abutment is just a bit to the left. The third picture is of an overlook atop that abutment and the fourth was taken from that overlook and shows the north abutment and the gap between them. That gap released twenty million tons of water that destroyed buildings and trains and killed over two thousand.

The last picture is out of sequence but shows that more of the Thunder participants were now awake. It was taken at the visitor center before I drove to the south abutment.

Since I had not been overrun by bikers at the park, I decided to take a peek at Johnstown. Things were far from rowdy and I believe that I could have visited the museum if I really wanted to. Parking probably would not be easy and I figured there would be a better time to visit downtown Johnstown. I was heading out of town when I happened on the incline. This was high on my "things to do in Johnstown" list and parking was easy. I was soon aboard "The World's Steepest Vehicular Inclined Plane". I was able to verify the "vehicular" part by riding up the 35 degree slope with a pickup truck and three motorcycles. The inclined opened on June 1, 1891 just two years after the devastating flood. At the top, the City View Bar & Grill sits on one side of the incline's equipment room. The picture here was taken through a viewing window in the gift shop but the City View has a similar window. That window is near one end of the bar and, although you have to try, vibrations from the incline's workings can be felt. The bartender told me that bottles have been known to vibrate off of the shelves with expensive vodka being the most susceptible. There are quite a few places to catch a view of the city below including a couple of observation decks with coin operated telescopes.

I did forego a visit to the museum and departed Johnstown on PA-56. I had more or less planned on taking US-219 to US-30 but, when I realized the PA-56 would take me almost to Bedford, opted for that instead. Time was not pressing and this would let me drive a bit more of the Lincoln Highway and allow me to revisit Jack Dunkle's wonderful Gulf station in downtown Bedford. I had stopped here in November but, despite a desire to patronize this sort of business as much as possible, had only room for a couple of dollars worth of gas. I made a larger purchase today but forgot my intent to photograph the attendant at work. Instead, I chatted away while she filled the tank and cleaned the windshield. At the coffee pot, nothing appears changed since November and I don't suppose I really needed to take another picture of it but... I could so I did.

Nothing connects these subjects except the fact that I didn't photograph them on my earlier drive. That drive was not during construction season so I had no "opportunity" to record lines of vehicles crawling through one lane work zones. On this trip, they were plentiful on several different roads. At one spot, the next "flagman ahead" sign was visible as I approached the preceding "end construction zone" sign. The cement pillar, commemorating Forbes 18th century military road, is on an old Lincoln Highway alignment. The sign for Fred Duesenberg's accident is where it rejoins today's US-30. The actual crash site is at one of the curves on that alignment. The stone building is the Runaway Lounge at the bottom of Laurel Hill.

Fort Ligonier was closed when I passed in November. At that time, I called it a replica but it's a lot more than that. It is a complete reconstruction on the original site. Every building and wall is right where the original stood in the 1700s and some small pieces of original foundations are actually incorporated in a few of the reconstructions. There are multiple walls, a dry moat, and significant artillery. It's a reconstruction so true that it seems capable of holding off a few attacks today. Fort Ligonier was built in 1758 to support the campaign to capture Fort Duquesne. The museum is rather impressive, too. There are documents handwritten by George Washington and a pair of pistols given to Washington by Lafayette. The entire structure that was the parlor at Arthur St. Clair's Heritage is there and one room displays several original paintings of major political and military figures of the late 18th century. The selection of books offered in the gift shop is unusually large.

The day ended with a double stroke of luck. In Ligonier, I recalled that, in November, I had regretted not bedding down at the local Ramada. I gave it a try this time but found they were full with the exception of one $165/night suite. I moved on toward Greensburg with thoughts of staying where I had in November. I didn't remember exactly where but knew that there were some motels on the old Lincoln Highway path after the US-30 bypass splits off. That idea vanished when I caught myself in the wrong lane at the split. No problem, I thought, and proceeded to US-119. But then I forgot about my plan to pick up I-70 off of US-119 and followed the US route straight south. I saw nothing inviting and even almost passed up the Melody Motor Lodge in Connellsville. It looked OK but the rooms stretched out quite a ways from the central office and there were only two cars present. But I feared that things might get no better and swung around to check it out. Good move. I asked to look at a room and was pleased to see it tidy and clean. The Lodge is a good $40 motel without frills and without unwelcome surprises. Peek inside, if you'd like.

The second bit of luck was even better. I had noticed a bar & grill sign a short distance back and headed there for something to eat. I sometimes work on the day's pictures at dinner but did not even take my laptop with me when I walked to the door. A beer & burger at the bar, I thought. When I saw families sitting at tables and an almost empty bar, I slipped back to the car for the computer. I had not noticed the handwritten "FEATURING HIS AND HERS RESTAURANT" below the bar & grill sign. Two trained chefs, Stephen & Mary Lingenfield, opened their long time dream about a month ago and it seems to be off to a good start. Picking one thing from the menu wasn't easy but I ended up with chicken stuffed shells instead of a bar burger. I also tried Mary's carrot cake which I'm nibbling on the second half of while I type this back at the motel. The His and Hers is definitely recommended. He and she run a great little restaurant.

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