On a beautiful summer day, one rare day that was not excruciatingly hot nor pouring rain, I hopped in my car and started driving. I had no destination in mind, no purpose for the day, no appointments to get back home for, nothing specific on my mind. I headed west on US-22 towards Pittsburgh and took a random exit. It was an exit that I drove past often and always caught my eye. The exit was Portage, PA. All I knew about Portage when I turned off the exit was that there was a drive-in movie theater there and a college somewhere around the town. Or maybe that was the next exit up?
As I drove along a winding road through a forest of very green and very much alive trees, my mind placed me in a time when I was 10 or 11 years old. We were driving towards the American River in Coloma, California for a day of adventures. I remember sitting in the middle seat next to my brother in our family’s “silver bullet”, a.k.a. the very old and very slow silver Taurus station wagon. I could smell the moisture from the trees surrounding us. Most likely it had just rained. I felt the queasiness of my stomach on every turn in the road. I was exhausted from leaving our home for the drive so early. I could feel the chill of the morning air, as it was not quite light outside. I remember that day well.
The funny thing about living in Pennsylvania, is just how often I have flashbacks, like this one, of my childhood in California. The town of Portage only continued to make me nostalgic of my childhood hometown. At first, I never thought I was going to enter this town because the road I was on just continued and continued. Suddenly I took one turn and found myself on a small, quaint main street. This main street was so small that if you blinked as you drove on, you would miss it completely. There was one shop entrance that caught my eye so I decided to park.
It is called the Chatterbox and I still do not know what to classify this establishment as. I think it was a cafe/restaurant/flea market/antique toy museum. Whatever it was, it was fun. I had a blended mocha served like an old fashioned malt, with the large metal container with the remaining drink inside and a large spoon. The woman working told me to try her new cookie recipe, so of course I obliged. She makes all of the baked goods fresh daily. It was delicious.
As I left to get in my car and continue my adventure for the day, I noticed one last thing that took me back in time to Petaluma. These old parking meters that only took nickels and dimes. They did not even accept quarters! I remember downtown Petaluma having these as a child. I wonder if those have been upgraded? Clearly not in Portage, Pennsylvania where everything remain stuck in the 1950’s.
Perfect ending to a lovely day.