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The following is an excerpt from my book, Stay on Route 6: A Guide To All 3,562 Miles of Transcontinental US Route 6. For now, Pennsylvania is the only state with a dedicated Route 6 tourism association – the PA Route 6 Alliance.
Route 6 stretches 440 miles across Pennsylvania’s northern tier, through forests and farmland, mountains, rivers and valleys, connecting communities that prize their heritage and quality of life. Rolling, emerald hills- much like those of the Blue Ridge Parkway – offer stunning views, and every once in awhile a slice of small town life. Mile-markers help travelers determine where they are along the way.
From Scranton PA, Route 6 joins with Route 11 climbing 4 miles up to Clark’s Green. Seven miles further, in Factoryville, keep your eyes pealed for the sign “Christy Mathewson Highway, or ‘Big Six’” as it is known here. The highway here is dedicated to hometown hero, Hall of Famer Mathewson.
Ten miles west, Endless Mountains Visitor’s Bureau is tucked away in Tuhkannock (in the middle of a little strip shopping center on the left). You can stop in and say hello to the staff and pick up some brochures if you’re so inclined. It’s a busy place in season – “Endless Mountains” is no hype. The mountain range does seem surreally endless; green and rolling, sculptural and shadowy, mostly following the course of the twisty Susquehanna River. It’s quite a beautiful ride.
But 25 miles west, in Wyalusing drilling trucks and natural gas equipment – for “fracking” – once dominated the road. The Marcellus Shale, in fact, is right beneath your tires here.
In Wyalusing, take a right onto Bridge St., drive a block or two and stop for a bite at (or to at least behold) the big yellow Wyalusing Hotel. Sandwiches, like the marinated grilled chicken sandwich ($5.99) are basic but good. Basic rooms $69 – $99 per night.
For a tantalizing view of the area and a bit of French/American history, pull over at the Susquehanna River Overlook. It was here that Americans sympathetic to France’s Royal Family hoped to settle refugees during the French Revolution of 1790’s. They purchased land along the Susquehanna, called the settlement the French Azilum and according to legend had hoped to whisk Marie Antoinette to safety. But no such luck for the cake-obsessed gal.
It’s another 15 miles to Towanda from Wyalusing. A sign marks this part of Route 6 as a “High DUI Crash Area,” warning motorists to slow down. As you enter the city limits of Towanda, you’ll find Auto Zones, Dollar Generals, Bigger Box Stores and lots of car dealerships.
Commerce reigns as you pull into the little railroad, artsy town of Towanda. Route 6 crosses the Susquehanna River, then abruptly turns right. You pass the very photogenic Rose Diner, definitely a photo op.
Drive 20 miles from Towanda, and if you time it right, please visit the Troy Heritage Village and Farm Museum (operated by the Bradford County Heritage Association) about ½ mile off Route 6 (on 14), Drive down the ramp to the County Fairgrounds and the massive barnlike structure and expect to spend at least an hour.
There are a bewildering number of everyday objects exhumed from attics and basements, recalling a simpler time. Pick up an old iron and feel its heft. Ruminate over a wooden goat or sheep treadmill used to churn butter (as well as barrel and swing churns), devices to turn flax into linen, and a piece of wooden water pipe excavated from beneath the town.
An adjacent “Village” incorporates a maple sugaring house, a barber shop/doctor’s office (once situated in the same place), a one-room schoolhouse, a massive carriage house, and the famous (featured in the April 17, 1939 issue of Life Magazine) “Chicken Coop” Church created in 1937 by a 12 year old preacher who was fed up with the “highfalutin” ministers in the area.
The Mitchell House on property is stuffed with 1800’s clothing and cabinets brimming with dainty china tea sets (used for tea parties). On the Underground Railroad; slaves were hidden beneath floorboards. Volunteer guides offer a stimulating and interpretive stroll down Memory Lane; a very worthwhile way to learn about day-to-day small-town history.
Four miles west in Sylvania stop at Connie Stickler’s Settlement House Fine Arts, It’s right on 6 on the far side of “town” – and quite the find for craft hounds. In a gorgeous contemporary timber-frame home (her husband’s design and business), there are three floors of fine arts, funky jewelry, fun gifts and Connie’s own wonderful animal paintings.
(Speaking of painters, Linda Barnicott, www.lindabarnicott.com has been crowned PA Route 6 Artist, and her luminous canvases and prints display multiple facets of PA life. Check her website and enjoy).
Route 6 remains woodsy and scenic 13 miles west into Mansfield home of to the State University known for its Music Department, and another 13 miles to Wellsboro.