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Road less traveled makes me yearn for interstates

August 17, 2009

o If you like reading Tim Rowland, you'll love watching him. See what else Tim has to say

We got home from the Great White North very late Sunday night, much later than we should have. I blame President Obama.

You can no longer drive more than 10 miles in this nation of ours without hitting some highway construction project funded (according to the signs) by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

I'm all for employment and people getting back on their feet and stuff, but not if it means sitting in traffic.

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We stopped at the Pennsylvania Duck and Cover, I mean the Pennsylvania Welcome Center at the New York border, and they gave me a free map. It turned out to be the most expensive freebie I've ever received.

Just out of the welcome center was an electronic announcement that we could expect "major delays" at five locations between Great Bend and Scranton, and to consider an "alternate route." This alternate route was not named, but armed with a map, we reckoned we could figure it out, and off we plunged into the Pennsylvania forests.

In all honesty, it was quite pretty, but as we bore deeper and deeper into the mountains, we had little idea whether it was getting us any closer to home. Since we hadn't eaten for a while, we decided to grab a bite and ask some questions. We like to think of ourselves as the adventurous sort, but some of the bistros we passed caused feelings of unease.

In a way, I will regret to my dying day that the Kwik Kook Restaurant was not open at the time we drove past, seeing as how the facade, like the name, was unspeakably picturesque.

After rejecting several similar establishments, I decided to take charge and pulled into a diner, ignoring the low moan that came from the passenger seat.

The waitress brought menus and then went back to doing a crossword puzzle behind the counter. We couldn't figure out where we were, so I walked up and asked the young woman in which particular village we had the pleasure of dining.

I wouldn't have troubled her if I knew that pronouncing the name would involve such a significant time commitment on her part. She told me and then laughed -- and not without reason. It sounded as if it had been named by a Leprechaun in the middle of a sneeze.

The rest of the names in this presumably mining town were of Eastern European origin, so you saw signs advertising Stradivarius' Auto Parts and such. If you had taken a photo of the town in 1960 and then again today, the only noticeable change would have been in the growth of the trees.

Curious, the waitress came up to ask if her town was on our map.

"I think so," I said. "Or the first 23 syllables of it anyway."

Having established that, we inquired about the menu.

"How's the meatloaf special?"

"I haven't tried it."

"How's the honey-dipped chicken?"

"I haven't tried it."

"How's the western omelet?"

"I hear it's good."

"How's the fried haddock?"

"It's, well, you know, it's fish."

We ordered, and the best I can say is that we survived it. Maybe it was OK if that's what you're used to. They had an interesting interpretation of Buffalo wings, which came smothered in ketchup. We didn't finish them, and I didn't know whether to ask for a box or a coffin.

They say that interstate highways rocket you through entire regions of the country without letting you see the true flavor of the locality in which you're traveling. In this sense, there is something to be said for interstate highways.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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