11:00 p.m. (eastern) Jan. 15-
BREEZEWOOD, Pa.----The human touch takes on greater meaning after sitting in a small car for long periods of time. Connections suddenly hit home, like a familiar voice over the phone in a strange hotel off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Or the effort to reach out can be more forced, such as my visit to Eat n' Park earlier today in Somerset, Pa.
I had never heard of Eat n' Park....
It is a very nice restaurant, very popular in Pennsylvania with some locations in Ohio.
I started goofing around with the middle-aged check out clerk. When she wasn't taking checks she was baking black and gold smiley face sugar cookies to support the Pittsburgh Steelers in this Sunday's AFC title game against the Baltimore Ravens. She was a good sport.
I thought to myself the place should really be called "Park n' Eat," but I didn't want to be a nebbish about such things. And then "Eat n' Park" sounds like some sort of potty training program.
But I did look out in the snowy parking lot and said, "I guess you can't walk here."
She laughed. She then gave me a take out menu. I noticed the restaurant motto: "The place for smiles." I just saw Dick Cheney on television a couple of hours ago. He needs to stop at Eat n' Park.
I rolled in just in time for the afternoon salad bar with Italian Wedding Soup. "The place for smiles" was spic and span and '60s pop-soul music like "Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin, Pie" by Jay & the Techniques played mid-level in the background.
There's nothing like an Eat n' Park where I am now. Breezewood appears to be some kind of faded away resort town at the intersections of the Lincoln Highway (Rte. 30), I-76 and I-70. I had checked into a Howard Johnson's, using one of those discount coupons I love to find in the motel fliers at truck stops and Denny's. The hotel clerk told me that starting Sunday HoJo's will be filled with people driving the two hours from Breezewood to Washington, D.C. for inauguration activities. But my room had no heat and no internet connection so I checked out. Now I am at a better Best Western.
Big plans for tomorrow before I bear down into Baltimore, where I am staying with Uncle Fun from Chicago.
The Gateway Travel Plaza (a.k.a. truck stop) is a block away. (www.gatewaytravelplaza.com). The truck stop has been at this location since 1940. I picked up a brochure that said during World War II the original Gateway was a major stop for servicemen and servicewomen on their way to deployments across the nation. The Gateway has a full service restaurant and three retail stores. I need some Merle Haggard CDs for the rest of the trip.