Monday, April 13, 2009

Coming Home #1

When my father moved the family to Florida in 1969, it was the same as moving to a foreign country. Strange animals, climate, southern culture, and a place where my brother Chris had a shot at a healthy life, free of harsh winters. In one fell swoop we were disenfranchised from all we knew and geographically isolated from our Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. We made a yearly pilgrimage to Pennsylvania for reunions every summer but as the distance was tripled, the family grew up and moved on, the reunions ended and I spent my last summer in Ligonier in 1979.

Davey and I stole out of town a day early when I was able get a reprieve from my job on Wednesday. We both knew we wouldn't sleep and decided to head north. We made it all the way to Macon before we stopped for food and caffeine. We met this guy.

He has been adrift on the road for more than thirty years, and says hes happy. The pictures cost me three dollars, a pretty good deal.

We made it to Ligonier about eleven o'clock on Thursday and so began the blur that was the next four days. I think we drank some beers and at some point we fell asleep at my cousin Lydia's. Thursday we went to visit cousin Rich in Pittsburgh. I finally got to eat at Primanti Bros. They serve a famous sandwich I have been hearing about on the the Travel Channel for years.

The sandwich completely lived up to the hype, and so began the rapid weight gain. Rich and his wife Susan, treated us like kings. The next day we were off to Ligonier after grabbing Chris from the airport. He had not been back since 1978, and was one of the main reasons for the trip. It was great to see the memories, and child like expression, come flooding back to him as we drove, through the town. He is an old curmudgeon and watching that facade fall away was worth the drive. Ligonier is a time capsule with magic healing powers. Davey and I were glad to see a new convert, and smiled at each other as Chris' enthusiasm, adjectives and finger pointing continued.

Friday, John and I went on our first of many bike rides. One thing I want to clear up. I have been saying that the Pa. boys are not as fit as they could be. They only ride a few miles as they run into, over and off of big rocks, logs and small children. John lent me his old Titus Locomoto, a nice heavy, six inch travel, all mountain bike. I never got out of the granny ring and struggled up anything that resembled an incline. John however turned and impossibly hard gear the whole time, and I swear I never heard his derailleur move. He would stay seated, grind out the climbs, all the while leaving his little cousin panting and complaining.

One of the killer climbs.

Here's John taking a crazy line, over a eighteen inch log, and then onto a slick, slanted, moss covered rock. It's way tougher than the picture tells.

John took great care of me on the rides and at one point took me to an overlook that he mentally dedicates to his Dad every time he rides up there. On the day we were there, he dedicated it to my Dad and we sat for a few minutes taking in the silence. How can you ever tell the people you care about what they mean to you? All I can say is, thanks Brother.

More on the trip later.......