Monday, October 15, 2007

Valley of Jim Thorpe

Walking the train tracks along the Lehigh River.

Next up on my "Exploring Northeastern America" series (as I have newly dubbed it) was Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the hometown of my friend Kayley, accompanied by Josh and Ilana in mid-September.

Named after Jim Thorpe, an all-round American sporter, this little town resides in the valley of the Poconos Mountains. The bus ride from Grand Central was uneventful (except for a witty ticketseller who told Kayley she bought the last ticket out of New York; we weren't impressed) and not too long—approximately two hours. Once we arrived at our destination, Allentown, Kayley's mother drove us to Jim Thorpe, where we past some deer, oh the wonders of non-urban areas.

Entering the cave.

We drove down to Lehigh Valley State Park, home to the Lehigh River. We explored an open-ended cave, complete with abandoned rail tracks that once ran over the Lehigh, the foundations of which are still embedded in the river. Then, we headed down to the river banks and embarked on our climb up to the near-beginning of the Glen Onoko Falls. The skies were overcast yet the air wasn't cold. Walking up the obtuse incline, we chatted while focusing on our footing as Josh pointed out the unnatural in this natural setting with the usual suspects: beer cans, plastic bags, cigarette butts. For a good portion of the trail, we followed a rusty pipe that ended abruptly. We crossed back and forth over the creek, taking in the clearness of the water (and it tasted good too, though I checked to see if there were any dead deer around, just in case). Once we made it to the near-top, we rested and then climbed down. Following a man and his daughter, we ended up at the railtracks and walked along until we reached the parking lot.

From the river's view.

Glen Onoko Falls.

After showering and eating breakfast at Kayley's, we headed to Jim Thorpe's downtown area, also known as Little Switzerland because of its narrow streets and sidewalks line with houses and stores alike, reminiscent of the vias di Roma. Kayley pointed out various landmarks, both personal and general to Jim Thorpe. We wandered through an antique store, complete with ridicioulous items, such as a homoerotic lamp of Grecian figures.

One of the stars of downtown Jim Thorpe--the pirate house a.k.a. tattoo parlor.

Since I needed to immerse myself in the entire middle-of-nowhere environs, we went to Walmart, my first time. Before that, we went to Rita's and got Italian ices—delicious mango Italian ices with custard. In Walmart, I did find a second copy of American Psycho for only $5, which made it worth it. Stopping by her sister Shannon's house, we played Guitar Hero and picked up season 3 of The Office, which we indulged in for the rest of the night.

The next day, after waking up late, we headed to Shannon's local church where Shannon's daughter/Kayley's niece, Emeline, was celebrating her 8th birthday. Before the other kids arrived, we took it upon ourselves to decorate both the church and ourselves with streamers, tissue paper flowers, and metallic stem foils. With the kids, we played Dance Dance Revolution, musical chairs and other assorted children's games.

Playing DDR.

The highlight of the day, though, was going back to Shannon's and her husband Jarrod's home again and riding in the back of Jarrod's motorcycle. I have an on-going list of things I need to do, just general life goals, and for the longest time, I had the urge to ride in the back of a motorcycle. Well, in Jim Thorpe, I got to do just that. After suiting up in Shannon's bright pink motorcycle jacket, gloves and helmet, I hopped behind Jarrod and off we went. Pennsylvania is known for their hills and mountains and this made for a wonderful ride. Jarrod sped up whenever we could and we quickly raced through the curvy roads of Pennsylvania. Going over 100 mph, you realize how easy it is to just let go and fly off into the wind--there was nothing holding me down except for my arms around Jarrod's waist. It was wonderful. Coming back, my hair was a mess, my glasses were practically knocked off, but it didn't matter—I need to do it again.

On the motorcycle.

And with that, we rushed back to the bus stop, making a quick stop at Sheetz, the mega-gas-station-slash-convience-store where we stocked up on food for the trip back. Then it was off to our brightly-lit city of New York.

Amazing view of Jim Thorpe.

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