Pennsylvania: Our scant 48 hours on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest found us in Bradford, an industrial city where the world-famous Zippo Lighters and Case Knives are manufactured.
The Case/Zippo Museum is reached via a drive with fourteen huge Zippo lighter streetlights leading to the building.
Over the entrance, a 40-foot lighter and huge three-blade pocket knife let you know you’ve arrived!
Zippo’s 1947 Chrysler Saratoga makes appearances at events all over the country, but today’s it’s resting in the parking lot. If you were born in 1947, you’d be tired, too.
Or, if you prefer modern to classic, how ’bout a Zippo Jeep?
The manufacturing facility next door employs over 1,000 people. The 15,000-square foot museum is pet-friendly, free to enter, and one of the coolest small museums we’ve seen yet.
They are very proud of their “Made in America” history and prove it with an American flag made out of 3,400 red, white and blue Zippo lighters.
The one-handed flip-top operation and familiar “click” has had a cameo role in over 2,000 movies.
Millions of soldiers have taken their “never-fail” Zippos onto the battlefields for lighting cigarettes and explosives, warming rations, and signaling other soldiers. In fact, during WWII, all commercial production was halted and the company only produced lighters for American servicemen.
Through a glass window, you can see technicians hard at work in The Zippo Repair Clinic, providing free repairs to every Zippo lighter for life under their slogan, “It Works Or We Fix It For Free.”
Also featured in the museum, Case Knives are best known for the “xx” stamped on each, representing the patented two-step heating process that makes them among the strongest in the world.
Of course, like all good museums it includes a tempting gift shop, where we found just the perfect specimen for the Lucky Charm! Also, I have now added “top off lighter fluid” and “change a flint” to my resume, so hit me up if you need a professional!
Further south toward Kane, PA, the 600-foot long, 300-foot high Kinzua Skywalk (one of the top ten most scenic skywalks in the world) is 24 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge and invites you to “walk the tracks across the sky” … but NOT all the way across! That would be a mistake, and maybe you can see why.
The original Kinzu Viaduct (2,053 feet across) was constructed in 1882 and was the world’s longest, highest railroad bridge. The reason you can’t walk all the way across is rooted (or should I say uprooted?) in tragedy.
Workers doing a $12 million renovation were happily welding away, until one day when the skies grew unnaturally dark and windy. “Hey Greg, maybe we should go home early today.” A tornado tore through the forest and 11 of the bridge’s 20 towers were tossed into the air like toothpicks, coming to rest in a metal-y pile on the floor of the valley.
In the space of about 30 nanoseconds, the whole thing was toast. The debris and foundation piers remain, cuz 1-800-GOT-JUNK was not interested in this particular junk removal job.
Two sets of tracks remain, the inside set to catch the train should it jump the outside set.
The end of the (now only half of the) viaduct bridge has a glass-bottomed observation deck and panoramic views around the valley.
When in this area, you MUST visit Bell’s Meat and Poultry, an old-timey butcher shop where the incredibly friendly guy behind the counter is also the one who just cut up a side of beef, and the customer standing next to you is sure to give you a secret recipe for the best way to grill their Greek Stuffed Sausages (one of 32 homemade varieties).
Everything here is over-the-top amazing, and we should know cuz we tried most of it. (Note to self: pants are getting a little snug in the waist.) Port-wine cheese spread. Moist and creamy chicken salad. Homemade macaroni salad. Marinated tri-tip. Lemon pepper pork chops. The list goes on and on! What you probably do NOT want to try, unless you are having a large party, is the “Original Griller,” so popular that it’s on their sign. What, you ask, is an Original Griller?
Well, it’s chicken breast, virginia ham, swiss cheese, and greek sausage, all rolled up with bacon on top and sprinkled with a chicken rotisserie rub. Oh, and in a roll bigger than your head. Eat up, and bring a friend!
Pennsylvania’s slogan used to be “You’ve Got A Friend In Pennsylvania,” which is unhelpful to a blog writer with exactly zero friends in Pennsylvania. Luckily, in 2017, they updated to something I can work with: “Pursue Your Happiness”! The tie-in is “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” from the Declaration of Independence, which was of course signed in Philadelphia.
Cities are not cities in PA, they are “villages” or “townships” or “hamlets” or “boroughs” or (puzzlingly) “corporations,” though I know not the difference between any of the terms. Front yards displays dazzling horticultural spectacles, unfathomable to one who can barely keep a cactus alive.
Also in Pennsylvania, this guy. “Hey! Take my selfie!”
As usual, things we see on our drives are often as interesting as things we see at our destinations, like this storefront. Hmmmm.
After “zippo’ing” through Pennsylvania, we’re now in Ohio at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where daughter Sarah and son-in-law Sean will come to visit. Family excitement all around!