I hate texty posts. No one reads them and they all smack of self-importance:
Northwest of the Lehigh Valley the Appalachians curve past us in a broad arc. A satellite map will show a series of green stripes - each a mountain ridge - separated by brown quilts of farmland.
Each valley has its own main line: Lehigh has 22; Mahoning has 895 and 443; 209 is the next north, 54 is the one after that.
I've never really gone off the main lines until today, and the impression I'm left with puzzles me: In addition to it's own main line, each valley seems to have it's own character; it's own economy; it's own history/ legacy.
Just north of the blue ridge, 895 winds thru what appears to be "wine country" Private homes are well-spaced, large, and expensive, on huge lots. Many farm buildings look freshly painted. Schuykill Haven to Lehighton. Places.
There's even a small valley that isn't reached by 895, just south west of Tamaqua. Beautiful country roads, a sprawling dairy complex with the unlikely combination of ice cream, mini-golf, and waffle house. I want to live here.
The next valley up is 209's: Pottsville, Coaldale, Tamaqua. This valley seems mined out, but not beaten up. The little blue-collar towns along 209 smack of middle or lower-middle class. They remind me of Catasauqua in the 1970's.
Valley 54 is next up, and it is just sad. Ashland, Frackville, but especially: Mahanoy City. Abandoned businesses and houses abound. The lived-in houses look as though they ought to be abandoned. The whole place is faded, rusted, and boarded up. The remains of the coal industry are everywhere, and everywhere abandoned, collapsing, and blighting the landscape. The people all look sad, or angry. They are just one valley south of Centralia, after all - by definition the saddest part of the coal region.
Now, here's the thing:
The beautiful wine valley is only about 8 miles from Mahonoy City... but you have to cross two ridges to get to it. These valleys stretch in long SW-NE stripes of "same" while just on the other side of the ridgeline, another valley runs parallel to it. The neighboring valley will have an entirely different "feel", history, and property values.
Each valley appears to have evolved oblivious to - and isolated from - the other side of the ridges bounding them.
The "good" roads are those that connect the parallel valley roads -
forming a ladder. 248 will take you thru the gap, and 309 is just a
highway over a mountain. Every other north-south road seems to be a
switch-backing old trail with a name which invariably contains either
the word "gap," "ridge," "mountain," or something similar. Would be
travelers are often threatened by "travel at your own risk," and "no
maintenance," signs. Less treacherous, better-maintained roads will
just limit trucks.