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Fun in Pennsylvania…

March 7, 2020, 10:00 AM

I guess that you could say that my March came in like a lion.  On March 1 and 2, Elyse and I did an overnight trip to south-central Pennsylvania, a 350-mile journey that took us to an abandoned motel, to Breezewood, through three of the four mainline tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, to Harrisburg, and then back home.  All in all, we had a fun time.

Our first stop was the aforementioned abandoned motel.  This was a former Days Inn near Breezewood, and from what we could tell, it had been abandoned since 2013, and, from the looks of things, it will never be occupied again.  Just about every piece of glass in the place had been shattered, the ceiling in the hallways had either fallen down or been pulled down, and there was mold everywhere.  Lovely place.

Welcome to Days Inn!
Welcome to Days Inn!

Exterior of the building, which was built in 1991 according to public records.
Exterior of the building, which was built in 1991 according to public records.

The main lobby.

The main lobby.
The main lobby.

First floor corridor.  Note that the drop ceiling is completely gone.  Wires were hanging from the ceiling, as well as bits of ceiling grid.
First floor corridor.  Note that the drop ceiling is completely gone.  Wires were hanging from the ceiling, as well as bits of ceiling grid.

First floor rooms.  All of the rooms that we saw were similarly trashed.

First floor rooms.  All of the rooms that we saw were similarly trashed.
First floor rooms.  All of the rooms that we saw were similarly trashed.

Edwards fire alarm horn/strobe.  The fire alarm panel was completely trashed, but the horns were still completely intact.
Edwards fire alarm horn/strobe.  The fire alarm panel was completely trashed, but the horns were still completely intact.

Smashed toilet.  None of the toilets in the facility were fully intact, though some were better than others.
Smashed toilet.  None of the toilets in the facility were fully intact, though some were better than others.

Apparently, Phil Dulaney of Afton Mountain isn't alone in just leaving personnel records out in the open after abandoning a business, as the former owners of this business did it, too.  We found personnel records of all sorts in a filing cabinet in one of the rooms.
Apparently, Phil Dulaney of Afton Mountain isn’t alone in just leaving personnel records out in the open after abandoning a business, as the former owners of this business did it, too.  We found personnel records of all sorts in a filing cabinet in one of the rooms.

Laundry room.
Laundry room.

Days Inn "Cost Tumbler" program on 3.5" floppy disk.  It's hard to get more nineties than that.
Days Inn “Cost Tumbler” program on 3.5″ floppy disk.  It’s hard to get more nineties than that.

Room 104, which was the moldiest room that we found in the place.
Room 104, which was the moldiest room that we found in the place.

The Four Seasons Restaurant, located next door.  According to public records, this facility was shut down in 2009 for health violations.  I don't know if it reopened after that, but it is very much abandoned now.
The Four Seasons Restaurant, located next door.  According to public records, this facility was shut down in 2009 for health violations.  I don’t know if it reopened after that, but it is very much abandoned now.

Restaurant interior, completely trashed.

Restaurant interior, completely trashed.
Restaurant interior, completely trashed.


Basement of the restaurant building.

One of several shower areas in the basement of the restaurant.
One of several shower areas in the basement of the restaurant.

That shower facility gave Elyse and me the impression that this motel was part of a truck stop, and catered primarily to truckers.  The facility is very close to the freeway, has a very large parking lot in the back (much larger than a motel of that size would otherwise need), signage for scale facilities (for weighing trucks), and a truck fueling facility on a pad site in front.

I later found some photos online of both the motel and the restaurant from when they were still in operation.  One day, if we go back to this place, I should recreate these photos showing the facility in its present state for comparison purposes.

Leaving the abandoned motel, we headed up to Breezewood.  When we arrived at Breezewood, we went in search of a place for Elyse to find a pair of pants, as she messed up her pants at the motel.  We ended up going to a Dollar General slightly west of the main Breezewood strip, but first, we happened upon this:

Former Howard Johnson's gate lodge

This appears to be the gate lodge for what was once a Howard Johnson’s motor lodge.  It was apparently most recently a place called Second Blessings, which was a church-run thrift store of some sort.  There’s no information on Rich Kummerlowe’s Howard Johnson’s site about this facility, so I don’t know anything about it other than that this is clearly the standard architecture for Howard Johnson’s, albeit in yellow rather than orange.

Then in Breezewood itself, I got some quick photos of the strip:

Breezewood

Breezewood

Every time I go to Breezewood, it just gets more and more depressing.  Breezewood has now lost a truck stop.  The Flying J truck stop is now out of business.  How does a place like Breezewood lose a truck stop?  One more indication that Breezewood is a dying area.  There are now like four closed motels in Breezewood, as well as a closed truck stop and several closed restaurants.  I remember in my 2006 visit, the strip was fully occupied.  That is not the case anymore, unfortunately.

After eating lunch at Sheetz, we stopped over to check out the entrance to the abandoned turnpike in daylight.  I’ve wanted to go up on the abandoned part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike for quite some time in order to photograph, but I am not about to walk all of that distance or bike all of that with the photo gear that I want to bring, let alone getting Elyse out there, too.  I would want to bring something powered up there, rules be damned, and just drive out to the locations where I want to photograph.  Barricades preclude bringing the HR-V in there, so it would need to be something smaller.  If anyone knows a good way to do this, let me know, because I would love to photograph up there if I can make it work.

After this, we took the Pennsylvania Turnpike across to Harrisburg.  This took us through the Tuscarora, Kittatinny, and Blue Mountain tunnels, which are always fun to do.  In Harrisburg, we stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn, where, much to my surprise, we got a free upgrade from a studio to a two-bedroom suite.  I don’t know what I did to get such an upgrade, but I didn’t mind, as Elyse and I each got our own bedrooms.  We went swimming in the hotel pool, which was a fun adventure.

The biggest surprise at the hotel was the fire alarms:

This is the CWSI model 310 pull station, which transmits wirelessly.  It reminds me of what you might get if a Fire-Lite BG-12 and my Ademco 5140MPS-2 had a baby together.  This pull station was discontinued in 2019, so it will remain rare.

The next day, our plan was to check out a few things in Harrisburg.  We had been to Harrisburg before, and this visit was a follow-up on some of those visits.  We wanted to see Three Mile Island, which we had gotten a glimpse of from the freeway back in 2016, and then I also wanted to photograph some stuff downtown.  As far as Three Mile Island went, I had done my research.  We couldn’t get onto the property itself owing to obvious security concerns (it is a nuclear plant, after all, albeit decommissioned), but I did find a place to take in the view of the plant from across the river.  There’s a clearing on River Road where power lines go across the Susquehanna River to the plant, and that was the spot to go.

I got some pretty nice shots of the facility.  My favorite is this phone photo using the panoramic feature:

Three Mile Island

I also got some photos with my real camera:

The cooling towers for the long-dormant Unit 2.  This unit was decommissioned following the accident that occurred here in the 1970s.
The cooling towers for the long-dormant Unit 2.  This unit was decommissioned following the accident that occurred here in the 1970s.

Cooling towers for Unit 1.  These were decommissioned last year.
Cooling towers for Unit 1.  These were decommissioned last year.

As much of a panorama of the plant as I could get in a single shot.
As much of a panorama of the plant as I could get in a single shot.

Not too shabby, if you ask me.

After this, we headed downtown.  It had started to cloud up by this point due to an incoming rain system, but I made the best of it, though my shooting felt uninspired:

Fulton Bank building.
Fulton Bank building.

Sign on the Fulton Bank building.
Sign on the Fulton Bank building.

Traffic light.
Traffic light.

Bent street signs at the intersection of River and Walnut Streets.
Bent street signs at the intersection of River and Walnut Streets.

Pedestrian bridge to City Island.
Pedestrian bridge to City Island.

Fire alarm in a parking garage adjacent to Strawberry Square.
Fire alarm in a parking garage adjacent to Strawberry Square.

I suppose that a cloudy day takes the wind out of my sails a bit.  But I think that I got something usable out of it.  Look on my Flickr later on, as I’m sure that some stuff will turn up there.

After this, we went a very roundabout way to get to I-81 to return home.  We also made a side trip to Geisinger Holy Spirit Hospital so that Elyse could film some elevators.  I waited in the car, but I did get a photo of this thing, covered in ice:

Covered in ice.

Leaving Harrisburg, we headed to Chambersburg, where we stopped in at Rutter’s.  We got dinner, and Elyse had an alcoholic smoothie.  And then we headed home.  All in all, this wasn’t a bad trip.  I definitely want to do more overnighters in the future.