This "northeastern", "liberal", "intellectual", "metropolitan", "elitist", cum very amateur astronomer ventured 7 hours inland (north-central Pennsylvania) over the weekend to gaze at a dark sky rarely seen (unless there is a power grid failure) by those of us who are constantly blinded by the bright lights of the big apple.
We are not too elite to drive westward or southward because we think that certain states are meant to be "flown over"... it's just that it is a royal pain in the ass to get out of here by car. So don't take it personally that we don't visit more. I've often said that if gawd forbid we ever HAD to evacuate to the mainland via the bridges and tunnels, they might as well pass out cyanide pills.
You really have to want to or really need to get out of this eclectic mind trip that is the New York City metropolitan area for the rising blood pressure experience on the Cross Bronx Expressway to the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River, to head west, or the nightmare that is the Verrazano Bridge through the parking lot that is the Staten Island Expressway to yet another water crossing, in order to head south.
It's really much easier to travel north towards New England, that bastion of heathen liberalism and homosexuality, by car, where the highways are plentiful in all directions, than it is to hop on Route 80 traveling westward ho or Rt 95 heading south. It's easier to endure JFK airport than to drive to the mainland. (I could have driven to Portland, Maine (one 1 tank of gas) in holiday traffic faster than I drove to the Susquehanna State Forest to see the Milky Way.)
And just when you think you are on your happy way heading west through the less populated areas of western New Jersey at 70 MPH, there comes the great traffic snarl that is the gateway to Pennsylvania- the very narrow crossing of the Delaware Water Gap, which rivals the George Washington Bridge for extreme right leg fatigue (gas, break, gas, break, gas, break....) and aggravation, although the terrain is much prettier. Oh goodie, we made it to Pennsylvania. Now we can cruise the rest of the way... Au contraire, city slicker, you've entered the Poconos vacation area. You must slow down to a grinding halt once again for what seems like 100 miles, but it probably is only 20 miles or so yet seems an eternity.
Uh oh, looking at the map, it appeared that our destination would eventually take us off the major highway and through the winding mountain roads. Oh man, we are never going to get there. This really sucks.... but au contraire once again.... this was the best part of the trip. All the towns and villages with no obvious corporate sponsorship awaited us, as we wound our way, up and down from town to glorious Americana town. Main St. USA, where no one was in a rush to do much of anything on Memorial Day weekend, where the mom and pop shops closed early or shut down for the day, because after all, it was a holiday weekend, ya gotta go to a cookout or something to commemorate all those who fought for our freedom from fascism, and there were no corporate headquarters dictating that they must stay open 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. People just learn to deal.
I remember this! This is the way life was when I was a kid on Long Island... long before we ever heard of McDonalds, 7-11's, The Gap and chain restaurants. They don't have traffic lights on every single corner either. There's an occasional stop sign though. Oh my gawd, there are spaces between the towns! I remember that. They don't have 15 gas stations per town with required corporate convenience stores operated by non English speaking persons who cannot give directions and don't care or even have an idea of where they are on earth. I remember that too. Look at the pretty houses. Why, they are all different from each other. I almost forgot that I grew up in a neighborhood like that, (but you wouldn't recognize it as such today because they crammed cookie cutter houses, Blockbusters and strip malls in all the spaces.)
And oh yeah, this whole trip was to go star watching like I've never done before. You stay out under the stars all night long and then sleep during the day. (They could shoot a Red Bull commercial at a star party.) I felt like I was in the Hayden Planetarium. Oh, that's why the people who wrote Genesis described the night sky as a black dome with pin dot holes. We arrived with the car loaded to the gills with technological astronomy equipment, but I couldn't stop looking upward with my bare eyes drinking it all in. A Long Islander could barely find the usual guide stars and the constellations amid the billions of visible stars at Cherry Springs State Park- stars and galaxies that we can only see via telescope armed with GPS at home. Silly me, the Milky Way is the "clouds" we saw during the power grid failure a few years ago. Isn't it beautiful. I just have to lay on the top of the car and look at it an hour longer. Ok, let's look through the telescope at all the nebulae now. Ahhhhh.