Pennslyvania has always felt like home to me.
My paternal roots go deep in this state and I can trace the branches of my family tree back to business owners and coal miners into the 1800s. While New York will always be home to me, Pennslyvania is a close second.
When I first started this van trip, I ended up spending close to three weeks in Bethlehem and the surrounding areas. It was out of necessity rather than pleasure, waiting for work to be done on the van. I bounced around from trailhead to parking lot, but ended up spending most of my time in one place: Dodson Street Fields.
It’s a small park made of soccer fields, a baseball diamond, and a few mountain biking trails tucked away on the top of a hill. The noises from the valley on either side echo through: train whistles, truck brakes, construction clatter, and the voices of people far away. Though I would have given anything to not be here, Dodson Street Fields was a safe landing place.
It can be hard to find places to park the van overnight in suburban and urban areas. It’s even harder to find a spot that I can stay for multiple nights, without incurring the ire of locals and the police. But for those three weeks I was stuck in PA, Dodson Street Fields was a little bubble of calm.
When I left I didn’t think I’d be back anytime soon, and yet here I am now. I didn’t plan to come back, but ended up here through a series of events. And I am glad to be here.
In April, the grass on the fields was the only greenery as far as the eye could see. The trees had barely awoken from their wintery slumber and all the small plants that cover the forest floor were still locked in the ground. One morning I took the dog out for a morning walk and every step awoke insects buried in the leaves. The entire ground buzzed with wings and we were surrounded by insects, still slow and drowsy. It was early spring then and the hills of PA were taking their sweet time.
Now it is the change of season yet again and the trees are covered in leaves, the forest is still in bloom. The air is fall crisp and familiar noises echo up to my windows from below.
My partner and I have spent time reminiscing on the early days of our adventure (“Remember spending five hours in a Home Depot parking lot trying to find an inverter that worked?”) and how far we’ve come.
I won’t stay long here (that’s what I said the first time – but this time it’s true) and yet I can’t say where I’m going next. The mountains of West Virginia? The beaches of North Carolina? That’s the adventure of it all.
Coming back here is a good reminder – even the worst of times will pass and someday you may even be able to laugh at them. I am here to ride this wave, not steer it.