There’s a time and a place for political correctness and then there are situations where you simply have to call things like they are and Route 30, (or at least the portion spanning Chester, Lancaster and York counties) is weird as all get out. There’s actually a lot of weirdness going on in rural, central Pennsylvania. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy it, and this is no offense to people who live there, but it’s weird. This is coming from someone born and bred in Northeastern PA. NEPA is weirdness personified, but Central PA, you take the cake.
I go to Philadelphia quite frequently. I used to almost always take the Turnpike. It just made sense to stick with highways and it’s hard to get lost when all your exits are spelled out for you. Then, about three years ago, toll prices rose drastically. This sounds petty, but hear me out. I used to be able to go Philly roundtrip for about $25.00 of gas an tolls. Now, it’s more like $30-40 of gas and $10.00 of tolls. I wanted to find a way to get there without breaking my bank account. About the same time I came up with this dilemma, my brother moved to Media, PA, southwest of Philly is Delaware County. The first time I drove to his house, I took Route 30.
US Route 30, or the Lincoln Highway (which was the first road across the US) actually starts in Atlantic City and ends in the Pacific Northwest. I’m going to focus on the portion that runs from Lancaster to Malvern, which is now the way I travel to Philadelphia, not only because it beats the toll prices but because there’s always something new to look at.
Route 30 is what I like to imagine is a throwback to the Route 66 of back in the day, all sorts of Bate-esque motels luring in drivers with promises of vacancy and “hot tubs,” peddlers hawking their wares and strange, kitschy attractions that beckon from feet from the actual road.
I was driving Route 30 this past Sunday on my way to The Whip Tavern in Coatesville. I decided to finally document Route 30’s weirdness and took as many pictures as I could on the ride to the bar. I was planning on taking more on the way back, but well, the tavern was fun and I’m the worst at taking pictures, so there might be a part II sometime down the line.
Anyhow, ass I’m constantly telling the children in school: I’m going to stop telling you and start showing you. Here we go:
First up we have the Fulton Steamboat Inn, right on the outskirts of Lancaster City, a hotel and restaurant inexplicably modeled after an old-time steamboat.
Route 30 is filled with all sorts of road-side shops, many of which put their “wares” out near the side of the road to try and lure drivers in. Now the majority of these are straight up tourist cheese and cater to the sorts of women who like to decorate their kitchens with “country” knick-knacks (aka my mother) but they also have a couple of cool Amish based/inspired woodworking shops (I stop at least once a year with the intention of purchasing an Adirondack Chair and once a year I’m reminded how expensive custom woodworking is) and some nice farmer’s market type stands in summer.
One of the weirder aspects of Route 30 that I failed to capture last weekend is all the tiny motels. There are literally these real old school roadside motor-lodges up and down the road. A majority of them have no more than 2o or so rooms and there’s often 5 or 6 right in a row. I always wonder who stays there and how they stay in business. If anyone knows, please enlighten me. These are not necessarily specific to Route 30, but Central PA in general. I could probably do a photo essay alone on the weird/small hotels on the New Holland Pike.
Then we come to the weirdly named Lancaster County towns, in this instance the dubious pair of Paradise and Intercourse (Blue Ball is on another similarly great drive, that I’ll have to photograph for you once it gets nice and I’m in the mood to roll down the window and threw back my hair Springsteen style).
There’s much more fun, as I mentioned, on the other side of the road, from a sprawling “farm equipment” museum I’ve never seen anyone actually at, to several pretty great truckstop/diner/motel hybrids and plenty of side roads to ride down and lose yourself for an hour or so if you have the time to kill. Route 30 also drives right through the heart of Amish country, which used to fascinate me. Now I just get annoyed whenever I get stuck behind a horse and buggy. I’m becoming Lancastrified.