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From Rome to Paris to Venus Without Leaving Pennsylvania

by on August 16, 2016 5:00 AM

The summer is winding down, classes soon start at the local schools, and the fall semester students will arrive later this week at Penn State. So this weekend I took a few moments to “take stock” of our family travels thus far in 2016.

Although we made a few short trips outside the confines of Pennsylvania, we did a good bit of traveling – 10,000 miles or so – within the Commonwealth. Thanks to work and youth sports that’s a lot of two-lane roads!

And as we trekked here and there in William Penn’s legacy we noticed our journeys took us to towns, villages and areas with interesting names. Lots of interesting names.

Some of those names evoke an international influence. It turns out to travel around the world we didn’t have to leave the state.

As everyone in Pleasant Gap knows, traveling to the mall or State College requires you to drive through Peru.

Going southeast to Harrisburg using US 322 takes you directly through a portion of Mexico.

If you are visiting friends in Boyertown or spending a day in Green Lane Park, you can see both Congo and Finland within miles of each other.

On the other side of the northeast extension of the turnpike and a little north of Allentown you are able to stop in Egypt.

If you decide a fun and educational theme park trip is in your plans, go to Sesame Place and nearby you can visit Holland.

Spending any time in Hazleton? It’s just a short trip east on Route 940 to see Japan.

Interested in taking a drive south along the wide and scenic Susquehanna River after the north and west branches merge in Sunbury? Use Route 147 on the much-less-traveled eastern side of the river, take a short detour before the Mahantango Creek and you’ll be in Malta.

And for those of us who really appreciate and enjoy a nice single-malt – no peat, please – if you need to go south on Interstate 81 and want to save time and miles, the short-cut over the mountains will connect you with the highway right at Scotland.

Then continue 30 miles southeast from Scotland and you’ll find yourself in Germany.

Ten countries and no need to leave the state!  

In addition to the countries, you can visit many well-known international cities within Pennsylvania’s borders. Paris, Rome, Geneva, Warsaw, Hamburg, Dublin, Athens and Belfast are all within hours of State College.

What if other countries aren’t far enough out there for you? A leisurely drive along the back roads to Erie and a northward turn about halfway will land you in Venus.

While there is clearly plenty of international influence throughout the commonwealth, several of the other United States have a similar presence in Pennsylvania, and you don’t have to go far beyond Happy Valley to visit a few namesake locations.

Everyone in Happy Valley trekking to Pittsburgh knows Indiana is along the way.

Once you get to Pittsburgh if you continue through you will find yourself on the other side in Washington.

And last week on a trip to Cook Forest State Park my wife and I traveled through Alaska to get there.

One other common feature we found as we rode the byways to and from our home is there is a clear female presence throughout the state.

Anita, Dora, Ella, Cecil, Chelsea, Joanna, Josephine, Lucinda, Marguerite, Roslyn, Sally Ann, Shelly, Allison, Edie, Marion, Naomi, Sandy, Alexandria, Cassandra and Elizabeth are just some of the many places you can stop at with a feminine moniker.

Then there are at least two towns whose names evoke images of real people: Glen Campbell and Jim Thorpe. The first was founded and named almost a half-century before the birth of the “Rhinestone Cowboy” singer and is not related to him, while the second was specifically renamed for the Olympic medal winner.

While discussing towns with proper names I must mention Naginey, the village just east of Milroy. My wife’s maiden name is Naginey and five generations have lived there and in nearby Happy Valley since they founded the town in the mid 1800’s.

Then there are the towns, villages and areas with names that are not easily categorized. Panic, Deal, Effort, Number Thirty-Seven, Torpedo, Foot of Ten, and Economy.

One of my favorite little places in Pennsylvania is the town of Orbisonia along Route 522 because the Mini Freez on the right side of the road as you approach town will sell you a full quart of soft-serve ice cream.

But no matter where our travels took us this year, near and far, mile after mile, we always returned home. To wonderful Happy Valley.

Not Home, Pa. Which is a small village along Route 119 north of Indiana on the way to Punxsutawney.


John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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