Driving over the holidays? If you plan to break bread with Grandma in Columbus, Ohio, or fight over the turkey leg with Cousin Billy in Buffalo, you most likely will blow through Breezewood, Pa. The so-called "Town of Motels" is the highly trafficked junction of interstates 76 and 70 that leads to destinations in the Midwest and Northeast.
According to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 18,250 drivers typically exit at Breezewood daily; on the Wednesday and Sunday around Turkey Day, that number more than doubles, to more than 39,000 per day. What they find there is a muddle of gas stations, chain hotels and restaurants they've seen a million times before.
We say: Mix it up. We found 10 diversions -- including things to do and places to eat, sleep and shop -- that aren't the standard Breezewood fare. All are within 10 minutes of the main intersection, and many are in view just off the ramp.-- Andrea Sachs
Turn your car into a plush crib on wheels with accessories from the Sheepskin Country Store (14257 Lincoln Hwy., 814-652-5976), which sells sheepskin covers for steering wheels and seat belts, deerskin driving gloves, sheepskin slippers for back seat drivers and more. The store inhabits a former barn, and each stall has a different theme, such as Boyds bears, candles, Native American designs, etc. There are also cases of silver and turquoise jewelry, in case Thanksgiving dinner is a fancy affair.
The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, which stretches through six Pennsylvania counties, honors the historic route with a 200-mile "Roadside Museum" that includes murals, exhibits and other presentations at select locales. One stop near Breezewood is the Traveler's Rest Motel (14275 Lincoln Hwy., 814-652-6263, $32 a night or $45 for the suite), which displays a vintage gas pump painted by an artist. An original strip of the 1913 highway rests between the main office building and the motel. In addition, for those "Wish You Were Here" sentiments, buy a $1 collectible Lincoln Highway postcard. (The proceeds benefit the highway project.) Info for Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor: 724-238-9030, http://www.lhhc.org.
Skip the mass-produced fried food and let the Morses prepare you some homemade fare at their Traveler's Cafe (14289 Lincoln Hwy., 814-652-2935). The dishes, made of locally grown and bought ingredients, cover every food group: seafood, sandwiches, salads, heavily iced cakes. In addition, if you decide to ditch your own relations this year, the Morse Five (three kids, mom, dad) is throwing a Turkey Day buffet with full-on fixings, plus 30 desserts, for $9.99. Entrees $2-$12.
Pet the llamas at LaMalot Farm (430 Crestview Rd., 814-735-4736, http://www.lamalot.com), a breeding and selling operation that, as of this week, houses more than 80 of the pack animals: 50 females, 30 or so babies and three lucky studs. Owners Nyle and Joan Mellott are happy to show guests around, inviting llama-philes into the pen where they can nuzzle with downy-soft babes and learn such facts as: Llamas are born potty-trained, have no odor and are cheaper to feed than a dog. If that sounds like your kind of pet, you can take home two males for $500 or a coed pair for a grand.
Bedford County is home to 14 covered bridges, and a handful are an easy hop from Breezewood's main strip. The closest one is Jackson's Mill Bridge, a 95-foot Burr truss bridge built in 1875. It's drivable, but a more pleasant way to cross is by foot, so you can admire the gabled roof and Brush Creek below. It's 3 1/2 miles south of town on Covered Bridge Road; for a map of the bridges, contact the Bedford County Visitors Bureau (see below).
During World War II, soldiers in transit would stop for a bite at Gateway Travel Plaza (16563 Lincoln Hwy., 814-735-4011, http://www.gatewaytravelplaza.com) and trade a military patch for sustenance or give one as a thank-you to owners Merle and Marion Snyder for their support. The truck stop now features a collection of 480 insignias representing most of the big conflicts (Korea, Vietnam, etc.) and military branches. Two of the displays hang in the coffee shop; the third is in the restroom hallway.
Gray and freezing . . . perfect weather to take a dip. And the heated indoor pools at the Ramada Inn and Howard Johnson are always balmy and Caribbean-warm. The Ramada even has potted plants and piped-in tunes to further feed that tropical fantasy. Info: Howard Johnson, 16550 Lincoln Hwy., 814-735-2200, http://www.hojo.com, from $59 double; Ramada Inn, 16620 Lincoln Hwy., 800-535-4025, http://www.ramada.com, $59 per person, $10 for additional guest.
At the Family House Restaurant (16417 Lincoln Hwy., 814-735-4119), sidle up to the fudge bar and order yourself a pound or two of the decadent treat. The confection is made on-site and comes in such flavors as vanilla pecan, chocolate peanut butter and mint chocolate. Bonus: Buy a pound ($7.99) and get a half-pound free.
Decades ago, Crawford's Gift Shop (16528 Lincoln Hwy., 814-735-4366) was like the town's Museum of Natural History. Owner Fred Crawford was a big-time hunter, and he used the store to warehouse his 300-odd trophies from Africa, India and beyond. Today, only a handful of the animals are still on show, due to animal rights activists and vandals who stole the bear's claws. Visitors who lurk among the Steelers trinkets and souvenirs from all 50 states will be able to see such stuffed beasts as a cape buffalo, a growling bear and a fully tusked elephant.
Take a nature break in Buchanan State Forest (717-485-3148, http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us, click on "Find a Park"), thick with trees, trails and hilly terrain. A bit farther on Lincoln Highway, Sideling Hill State Forest offers a picnic area with grills, tables and a wood playground; hiking paths; and a close-up view of a 2,301-foot fire tower. If you prefer to bike, Fat Jimmy's Outfitters in Breezewood (16487 Lincoln Hwy., 866-356-2897) rents Cannondales for $20 a day. (For a bike route closer to town, the Apple Barrel Orchard Tour starts at Fat Jimmy's; print out a cue sheet at http://www.thealleghenies.com/images/maps/pdf/bikecue/apple1-cue.htm.) The state forest is about five miles east of Breezewood on Lincoln Highway.