And the grave is not the goal …

Memories from the final road?

On the outskirts of Scranton, Pennsylvania, settling in for the night. A road trip moment.

We just drove through the Catskills, past so many places we remember from childhood. In those days, these mountain towns were home to the best resort hotels, Grossinger’s, and so many others. It was the upstate New York version of Las Vegas, sans gambling.

The hotels became the casualties of the huge cultural changes of the 1960s. By the late 1960′s and early 1970′s, all were gone. Their ghosts linger on … empty swimming pools, huge buildings filled with once-luxurious, empty rooms.

Ghost lounges at Grossinger’s. Photograph by Steve Bley

I was expecting to see the same dingy, sad mountain towns … Liberty, Monroe, Monticello, Peekskill, Catskill … they always looked to me like they might have been lovely and could be lovely again. I was right. It just took a lot longer than I ever imagined.

The area has indeed come up in the world. Gone are those down-at-the-heels towns with boarded up main streets. Today the mountain towns look healthy and alive. Apparently time has wrought positive changes including sources of revenue other than hardscrabble farms. There are new buildings. These look like prosperous suburban towns.

As we rolled out of the Catskills around the edge of the Poconos toward Scranton, we hit rush hour traffic. Time to stop.

Finding a motel was interesting. Although I printed directions, I switched Richard (our handy-dandy GPS) on as soon as we were past Hartford. With a little coaxing, I prevailed on him to take us the way I wanted to go, so I could have maps to look at and a way to locate restaurants and motels.

There was supposed to be a Motel 8 around here. They are usually a bit less expensive than other chains, so I told Richard to take us there. We wound around the Route 81 and seemed to be going in circles, discovered the most dilapidated motel we’ve ever seen, said “No thanks!” and headed for what presumably would be a Motel 8.

A few minutes later, in the firm, authoritative voice we have come to know and trust, Richard announced “You have reached your destination.”

We looked to the left. A familiar sight greeted us. McDonald’s. Obviously not the motel. So, we looked to our right and indeed it was our destination. Ultimately. Just, not today.

It was a cemetery. A large, old, long-established final resting place. Although I’m sure they had room for us, we were not prepared for that destination.


I didn’t know a GPS could have a sense of humor.

So here we are at a Sleep Inn which while overpriced, is at least clean, available, and not the nasty place down the road or the waiting graves across from Micky D’s.

Tomorrow, Silver Spring. Happy Trails.

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Categories: Humor, Travel

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8 replies

  1. Memorable road trip. Truly glad we did it. But my body keep saying, “They shoot horses don’t they?”.


  2. Road trips! What memories. . .whether a quick day trip or a lengthy vacation. . .they hold! This one is by far one of the best renditions I have read in a long, long time. Usually, they are just descriptions without much of story, other than we did this, we did that, etc. Now that my husband and I are planning a trip to visit our daughter and family near the Miami area I set the GPS with a smile as I envision the cemetery and the words “You have reached your destination!”


    • It’s always the odd little moments that we remember best. They are the unexpected part of trips, the things we don’t plan but just happen.. I don’t think I’ll ever forget Richard, the GPS voice, announcing “You have reached your destination” and seeing that old cemetery. If my husband had not been driving, I think he’d have fallen out of the car. Why else remember the suburbs of Scranton 🙂


  3. I love road trips. My friend Warren & I have been on some really great one with lots of memories attached. My parents used to live in the Catskills and often remarked that my dad had an opportunity to invest in development land there before the glory days. I don’t know if I was born back then but they always spoke kindly of that beautiful area.

    I lived for 3 years in Stockton, NJ. It was 50 miles from New York City and 50 miles from New Hope, PA. I used to take road trips to New Hope to photograph the fabulously restored grist mill wit its spectacular water mill scenic. I was shooting with a couple of Mamiya 645 2 1/4″ roll film cameras at the time that I used to bring home some great photos of that mill. They became brilliantly colored glass slides.

    Warren & I are heading out September 16th for a 6 day round trip to Yosemite National Park in California. That will be about 1500 miles round trip so we’ll have 4 days of site seeing and photography. I’m bringing all my camera geer to take advantage of the opportunity.

    Although I’ve never been to the Catskills myself I love that you posted this story so that I could recall my parent’s tales of the good old days. Thanks.


  4. There was a creepy domineering abandoned Hyatt resort that loom over our vacation resort on Puerto Rico–a fancy slide rusting away visible above the green fabric-covered high fence that screened the place from view. We peeked through a hole in the fabric and saw a decaying, dry lazy river winding through landscape that was returning to jungle. Yes. A ghost of days gone by.

    Interesting post.


    • Ghost hotels are eerie. You can feel the presence of all the long vanished guests and weird remnants of spirits who go bump in the night as they roam the premises seeking a sympathetic ear … or perhaps anyone at all … to whom they can tell a tale. I am not quite ready to listen.


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