B-16 Rally on the Susquehanna
B-16 Rally on the Susquehanna in Northumberland, PA: May 16 – May 19, 2019
(This is Marcia’s recap of her adventure to Pennsylvania. For more of her and Mike’s impressions of Goose, check out our latest YouTube video)
Thursday, May 16, 2019: Off to the B-16 Rally in Central Pennsylvania
Mike and I set out for the B-16 Rally, about five hours east, driving Goose, a 144” Sprinter 4 X 4, recently completed by Advanced-RV. Our RV trips have always been in a 170” extended Sprinter, so we are curious about how we will do in this “shorty”. In Goose, the queen sofa bed and bathroom are about the same as in the extended Sprinter, but Goose has a smaller refrigerator/freezer, no wardrobe cabinet, a shorter kitchen counter, no microwave, and less storage space in the rear. On the plus side, Goose has a wider pull out pantry, which fits both the Breville electric kettle and the small Bullet for making smoothies on the bottom shelf and the rest of our food staples on the upper shelves. With no bikes and our Eagle Creek packing cubes in the upper cabinets, we are easily able to pack what we need for this five-day trip. I will miss the microwave, since I do little cooking while we travel, choosing instead to simply heat up soups or things I’ve fixed at home. In the future, we could get a countertop microwave.
I actually like doing with less space, which fits with Goose’s overall feel – less luxury, more ruggedness – at least for this short trip. Because it is a 4X4, we sit up a little higher and the visibility is excellent. Goose has VB Air Suspension, so it handles well.
We arrive at Splash Magic Campground in Northumberland, Pennsylvania (south of I-80 and Williamsport) just in time for the 6PM Meet/Greet and Pizza dinner. This is our 7th B Rally. At our first B Rally, out of 30 RV’s attending, there were two Advanced RV’s, ours and one driven by one of our associates. At this Rally, out of the 58 RV’s attending, there are 7 Advanced RV’s, all driven, except for ours, by our wonderful clients.
Friday, May 17, 2019: Exploring pastoral Pennsylvania and coal country
Last night, our first night in Goose, we slept over nine hours. The bed was just as comfortable and spacious as in our 170” extended. The fitted sheet and our down comforter felt great. After coffee with the Rally group, we set out to explore in Goose. We decide to take back roads to visit covered bridges in the area, using the guide, “Central Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges of the Susquehanna River Valley,” supplied in our Rally packet. All three bridges we found had enough clearance and weight capacity to drive Goose over. Mike notices that going off to the side and below every bridge, there is a ford crossing the creek, probably an off-road alternative for vehicles that are too high or heavy for the bridge. Mike could not resist trying Goose’s four-wheel drive and low range on one of these fords. While I scream, “No!” he drives down the steep, rocky approach to the ford, observes the three feet or more of swift flowing water, and decides to reverse back up the bank.
After talking to a local guy at one of the bridges and looking at the maps in our Rally packet, we drive hilly rural roads, then southwest on Routes 54 and 61, through old mining towns, with small houses tightly strung along the main streets. In Ashland, we visit the Museum of Anthracite Mining, which shows how underground mining is done and the toughness of everyone living this life in these small towns. After the museum, we take a mining cart tour 1800’ into a coal mine that hasn’t been active since the 1930’s, with an experienced coal miner as our guide. The cart shakes radically as we plunge into the damp, dark, narrow tunnel, while cold-water drips on us from the ceiling. The guide relishes showing us the heavy tools the miners carried, the steep ladders they used to climb up into narrow coal seams, and the models of canaries in cages that warned them of poisonous gases. “PETA would object, but they kept us men alive.”
The attendant at the Anthracite Museum had told us about Centralia, a town a across the valley on Rt. 61, where, starting in the 1960’s, an uncontrolled fire in a coal seam underneath the town released gases and caused sink holes for years, leading to the destruction and abandonment of the town of about 1000 people. All that is left is Graffiti Highway, four abandoned lanes spray painted with graffiti. We park on the side of Rt. 61 where we think Graffiti Highway should be and ask a woman and two guys with a dog for directions. She says to join them and she leads us on a short walk through the woods to the abandoned half-mile stretch of road, covered in bright graffiti. The woman’s husband, who is through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, asked her to take the two guys, whom he had met on the trail, to Graffiti Highway. The one guy was hiking the trail after getting out of the Army and recovering from a post-injury opioid addiction, while the other was getting over a broken relationship. We walk the length of Graffiti Highway with them and the guys use the spray paint the woman brought to leave their mark. Back at the Rally, we enjoy dinner in the Entertainment tent with old friends and new.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
After coffee and pastries with the Rally group, we attend the “B-ing” Open Discussion about all things related to traveling in B campers. The more experienced campers share their deep knowledge with the less experienced campers. From 1:00 to 3:30PM, attendees visit each other’s campers for the Van Open House. There is a lot of interest in Goose, as an example of a “shorty” built by Advanced RV. We visit other vans, some DIY’s, including one with a parrot and two cats and one with an RV dishwasher. After an Italian dinner, Susan, the organizer, conducts a hilarious Door Prize and Awards (e.g., Willie Nelson look alike award) ceremony.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
We head out early, taking Rt. 15 North along the Susquehanna River, past Williamsport and then drive back roads west to Leonard Harrison State Park. There we explore the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania”, hiking 800 feet down into Pine Creek Gorge on a one-mile trail, following a cascading creek with several beautiful waterfalls. Although years ago we canoed the upper part of Pine Creek, we are surprised to find a 60+ mile rail trail path at the bottom of the gorge along Pine Creek. We add biking this trail and canoeing this creek to our list of future adventures.
From the State Park, we find our way back to Rt. 6, heading west, hoping to find the Susquehanna Inn, a lodge we had gone to with friends for about 10 years on Presidents Day Weekend to cross-country ski the Susquehanna Trail. We have not been there for 30 years. We stop at Galeton for tea and cookies and just after West Pike, we see the Susquehanna Inn, looking as good as ever. We pull in and find Carol and Ed, the proprietors, working as always. We ask about Will and Betty, the original proprietors, and learn that Betty died last year a week before her 101th birthday. Will, at age 96, is still living next door and mowing his own lawn. We stop to see him, and sharp as ever, he remembers our friends and us.
After leaving Will, we continue west on Rt. 6. Our next stop is Kinzua Bridge State Park. The Kinzua Bridge Viaduct, spanning the Kinzua Creek Valley, was completed in 1882, when it was the highest and tallest railroad viaduct in the world. Partially destroyed by a tornado in 2003, the state reinvented it as a 600 feet pedestrian walkway on the remaining support towers. After walking the skyway and doing one other short hike, we leave the State Park as they close at 6:00PM. We continue west on Rt. 6 through many rural, small towns. As we drive through Kane, I see a guitar player performing at an outdoor patio, so we stop at Table 105 and enjoy live music, good burgers and fish tacos. We leave Table 105 after 8PM. GPS is indicating that if we go north up to I-90, it will be about three hours to home, but if we stay on Rt. 6, it will be four hours. We opt to stay on Rt. 6, enjoying the rural landscape and small towns, while listening to music on Pandora. We get home close to midnight.
My conclusion about traveling in Goose is that it is comfortably doable for two people, but they must get along well. There is not much space for getting away from each other. Its agility was great for the rugged exploring we did on this trip and its small size helped with blending into the rural landscape. I imagine that its smaller size would be even more helpful in city visits. This trip, to us, was another example of the interesting things – history, geography and sites to see – that can be found exploring, even close to home, in an RV.