On Monday, my friend and I loaded up the car and made the two hour drive to Breezewood, PA, a “Traveler’s Oasis”, the “Town of Motels”.
My fifteen year old bike rack popped a few of the mounting hooks along the way, but the bikes were still there when I pulled into the gravel parking lot at the Pike2Bike trail head.
I’d found out about this trip in a bit of an unusual way. Earlier in the year, my next door neighbor in my dorm had been listening to a Bloodhound Gang song on repeat. She showed me the video, and what caught my attention was the location where it was shot. A little bit of googling later, I’d found one of the many websites about the abandoned Pennsylvania turnpike. I emailed my friend about it, and plans were set in motion.
Not too soon after starting out, we spotted the first tunnel, Rays Hill Tunnel, the shorter of the two. We climbed to the top of the tunnel, climbed down a metal ladder, and in through a broken window. We found ourselves in the ventilation room, with its two large ventilation fans. We explored a bit in the ventilation shafts, which I must say is one of the most frightening places I’ve been. They’re claustrophobic, pitch black, and echo and amplify all sounds, the shuffling of our feet and the dripping of water filtering through the hill. We made our way through the two other stories of the building, down the rusted metal staircases, and exited through a broken out section of the ground floor door.
We pressed onwards to Sideling Hill Tunnel, the longer of the two, at 1.3 miles long. You can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel when you enter, and then when you finally do, it never seems to get any closer. The headlights we had installed on our bikes, supplemented by large flashlights didn’t begin to illuminate the place. You could barely see the pavement in front of you to dodge the chunks of concrete that had fallen from the ceiling of the tunnel. We explored both ends of the tunnel, and ate lunch when we arrived at the far end. All the ventilation rooms were the same, aside from the graffiti.
From there, it wasn’t far to the old travel plaza that once was the site of a Howard Johnson’s Restaurant, and the turnaround point.
Passed this guy along the way. My first thought was- hey- let’s get them off the highway. Then I realized where I was.