PA State Route 26: A Place I Like to Go

People like to take trips. For some, it’s in the afternoon during time off, for others, on the weekend. They simply feel like going to shop, or to the beach, or to visit a friend, or to the movies, or simply to buy something they need at the store. Sometimes they have cabin fever and simply want to go out. On October 30th, I went on a trip that took an hour and thirty-three minutes each way! Where was it, you may ask? I drove out to Everett, PA, to travel on PA 26, which is the road in Pennsylvania that bears my favorite number.

I have been on several trips to the road before just to see the signs with the number “26” on it in big black print. As a person with autism, sometimes I like to go to see a sign with my favorite number. I don’t really spend much time in the stores, I go to buy what I need and get out (a notable exception is during the Christmas season where I like the ambiance). Often, I go on drives by myself, so I don’t go to places like the beach. I like the beach, but I go there with my family for vacations. I do go visit my friend once a week(pre-pandemic). Usually I don’t go to movies. They are hard to understand for a person with prosopagnosia (face-blindness), and I tend not to be a fan of movies that are violent, romantic, or have foul language. I actually prefer PG movies. I also don’t like going to social gatherings, so it would make sense that I might have a different kind of place I like to go.

My first trip to visit Route 26 was back in 1998. My parents drove me to Everett, PA, so I could see the sign and get my picture taken with it. It was during the winter, and also was my first trip west of Chambersburg. It seemed to take forever to get there, though I had looked on a map many a time for the road. The first time, we stayed in Everett, and my biggest objective was to see one of the great PA State Highway 26 signs I had only dreamed of seeing. In 2001 we took a second trip to actually drive on Route 26. We went south on the road and took it from Everett to the PA/MD border. Many pictures of the PA 26 signs were taken on this trip.

It would be years later, but one day I decided I wanted to go north on the route, and I convinced my brother to go with me. He wanted to stop in Shippensburg on the way back to look for something (I don’t remember what anymore), but I got him to agree. To prepare for my trip, I looked at a map to decide how far on the road I wanted to travel, how I would get there, and how I would come back. With the notable exceptions of U.S. 30 to get out there and a small section on U.S. 522, I stuck to backroads for most of my traveling. I also figured in going through Shippensburg, on the way back, as I had promised my brother I would. This trip went without a hitch and was an enjoyable time. I had major perseveration problems with 26 at one time (I drove people crazy with it), but after the trip it subsided. Examples include writing it on everything, always mentioning it, and making my “talking” calculator say it by typing 26 and then repeatedly pressing the button that made the calculator read the number on the screen. I knew I could drive out there if I wanted, so the need to perseverate disappeared!

On this particular trip, I had two challenges that I figured out. Firstly, I encountered a heavy rainstorm along the part of U.S. 30 that wound itself around the Tuscarora mountains. Since there was poor visibility, I had to slow down. On a U.S. highway by law, if you drive below 35 mph you must turn on your flashers. So, I put on my flashers, and drove until I found a place where I could pull off the side of the road and wait for the storm to pass. When the rain was less heavy, I got back on 30 and continued west. Secondly, Breezewood made me a little nervous since it is a large open place with several lanes and two major interstate highways one could turn on by accident. The rest of the trip went smoothly, and I thoroughly enjoyed driving on the route bearing my favorite number. At the tiny village of Entriken, I turned off Route 26 onto PA 994 and started the trek back home via Shippensburg.

More recently, I went exploring in the area of Route 26 since I wanted to drive on some state highways I had never been on. One of the roads I picked, PA 915, actually connects onto PA 26. When I reached PA 26, I discovered that PA 26 South was closed, so I went north on it and headed back towards Entriken and PA 994. Since I was trying to save time, for this trip I followed U.S. 522 down to McConnellsburg to get on 30 East. U.S. Highways are generally faster than state highways, and especially state highways that wind themselves through the mountain. U.S. 30 may also go through the mountain, but the road is a little better, and one can travel faster hence cutting some time off of the trip.

Then, just last Friday, I decided to take a spur of the moment trip out to PA 26. Originally, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I needed to get gasoline, and I wanted to take a drive. I thought about various state roads that I haven’t driven on yet, that I could try. Most of these roads were in the western half of Pennsylvania. I headed to the Rutters at PA 997 to get a drink and figure out exactly where I wanted to go. During my time there, I figured out that I felt like driving on Route 26, so I started in that direction. Along the way I met a few surprises. In the mountainous part of U.S. 30, over the Tuscarora mountains, I came to slow moving traffic. The cause? A piece of farm equipment was carrying a heavy load on its back. Behind this vehicle, was another one with a sign saying, “heavy load” and a few vehicles. The road in this section is winding and due to the slow-moving traffic, it took even longer for me to get to a straighter, faster section of U.S. 30. Breezewood would be the next challenge. When I entered the town, I discovered I was in the wrong lane. My lane was heading directly for Interstate 70! Using my right mirror that I was learning to actually use, I moved over a lane when traffic was clear. Once I was in this lane, I discovered paint on the road ahead that showed what lane went to which road. The lane that had an arrow pointing to a picture of the U.S. 30 shield, and the word, Everett, were in the far-right lane. I had to use my right mirror again and move once again to the lane to the right of me. Finally, I was where I wanted to be. The trip was smooth from here until the way back. I decided to take Route 26 to Entriken and go back home via the backroads (PA 994 and PA 641).

What I discovered on this leg of my journey were discontented drivers. PA 994 has a speed limit of 55, but has many curves. Some of the areas with sharp curves have slower speed limits given on yellow advisory plates. I’m still not familiar with the road and tend to drive a little bit slower at the top of hills, since I can’t see what is ahead of me. This frustrated some impatient drivers behind me. When I made it to PA 641, right beyond the elementary school in Shade Gap, I got behind a horse and buggy. Apparently, Amish country is also in the mid-section of the state. This road was even curvier than PA 994, and I had to follow the horse and buggy for awhile before I could find a place to pass it. Now it was getting late (towards 2:00), and I wanted to get back home for lunch, but I still had a ways to go. There was nothing particularly challenging for the rest of the trip, it was simply long. I reached a split on PA 641 where the road split into two sections. If I went straight, I would be on Truck PA 641 (the route required for tractor trailers, that would be straighter and flatter, but would go out of the way since it would go around the mountain), and if I turned right, I would follow PA 641, but would wind around the mountain. I went through the mountain as I figured it would save time. Once I left the mountainous area, it was a simple drive home, but still long. When I arrived at home, I was ready to be there!

What I discovered from my drive was my improvement in driving. This has been an objective that FOCUS Behavioral Health staff have been working with me on for years, and some skills that I didn’t know I had, had come to fruition on this trip. I was especially tickled that I was able to switch the lanes using my right mirror, and how I stayed calm through the whole adventure. Though the trip threw some curveballs at me, I was able to overcome every single one without trouble. A few were simply annoying. A skill that I still need to work on is time, which is a spatial skill. I have a deficiency in spatial areas.

Of course an important take-away for the readers of my blog, is that though I might not seem to have a lot of places I like to go(other than go on drives or to the convenience store for drinks) some other things determine where I like to go. For example, spending an hour and thirty-three minutes to go to the route bearing my favorite number to look at the signs with it on or simply driving on a new state highway. For me, looking at the “26” on PA Route 26 signs is as entertaining as a movie or social event may be for an NT (neuro typical) person. In case you don’t know, an NT is a person who is not on the Autism Spectrum.

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