I79 has a distinctive sound, a high-pitched whine you don't hear on any other highway I know. It was with us for quite some time as we drove south toward Butler, PA, where my father's mother lives. We hadn't seen her since the year L was born, our trips out to PA being usually too brief for a side trip that takes up most of a day, but we wanted her to meet JJ.
It was a very pleasant visit. Her house, too, doesn't seem to have changed one bit since the last time we were there, except for the addition of a cat. L threw a fit when it was time to sit down for lunch—until the offer was made that we eat out on the back deck, at which point she became all smiles and sunshine. Not exactly a hardship for any of us, as it was a perfectly gorgeous day. We sat outside, had a very good meal, and talked—about politics and religion until I changed the subject to genealogy. On our last visit we'd gotten to talking about her ancestors, and I had inexcusably not written down everything she said. This time I was prepared, and we spent a while mapping out that part of our family tree and listening to stories about people who seem to have universally lived well into their 90s if they survived childhood. The past is not so long ago as we sometimes think it is. I was pleased to learn that the farm is still in family hands; perhaps next visit we'll make our way out there for a look.
We departed in mid-afternoon. Rather than take 79 up to I80, we went by way of 68, which was very much the right thing to do. The car labored a bit on the hills as we wound our way through villages and farmland, but it was all beautiful and charming. One thing that always strikes me when I'm in that sort of country is how large all of the lawns are. You get the sense that absolutely everyone has a riding lawnmower (or perhaps a herd of goats) and clearly takes great pride in meticulously mowing a half acre or so of grass. Once upon a time this didn't seem quite so strange to me, but I've been living in cities for a while now.
We saw several billboards touting “clean coal” as the state's best bet for energy, one which went so far as to suggest doing so would ward off terrorism (a sentiment echoed by my grandmother at one point in our conversation). The industry is obviously in the throes of a major PR push.
Eventually we got back on the interstate and zipped across the remaining miles to DuBois, PA (pronounced dew-boys), where we were spending the night with friends of my husband, the Ks. They have a neat old house, two black and white cats, and a large, rambunctious, and fortunately friendly dog, which turned out to be a major hit with L, who laughed harder than I have ever seen at its antics. This was much to our relief, as all of the traveling was obviously starting to wear on her. We enjoyed a very pleasant evening with them, went out to Julio's for dinner (her father owns it), came back, talked some more, and went exhausted to bed.