I took no photographic evidence of my last minute decision to peel off the highway and drive down Hancock's main strip. I hadn't actually been sure that the place in my memories was Hancock, but when I saw the roof of and sign of the orchard/farm market literally just off the highway, I was pretty sure it was a place I had been. I don't know when. As a four year old. As an eight year old. As a nine year old. As a 12 year old. I simply don't know if I've been to that town three times or ten. At least three, that is for sure. In any case. It was a surreal thing driving down Hancock's Main Street and having at first a moment of feeling like I was totally mistaken. If it wasn't that apple/farm building market thing, then what town was it? I was driving the same route that my mother would often take when we drove to Ohio, but I had never remembered any of the roads. It's a strange thing to see things you've already seen but not entirely on purpose or realizing you are about to do so. Hancock is like that. I remember the market. I remembered a diner that I kept thinking was going to be just a little bit farther, and then I started to think that it didn't exist, and then it suddenly appeared and was exactly as I thought it would be. I remembered a General/Discount store with some weird mix of cheap toys and groceries and asundry things. The kind of place where there really is dust on some of the merchandise. I remembered going entirely through the town and turning right and going who knows how far to a place to park in order to then hike a while to get to a cabin with my parents that was along the Appalachian Trail.
So this town is just a location I somehow saw a number of times up until the time I was about 13. It is 17 years later and I am still drawn to it. And why? It's just a pretty small town with no huge anything that I could tell. Just strangely fragmented memories of being there. Being struck by the small town-ness of it. Struck by perhaps the run-down-ness of some of the people I saw. I don't know and I've just gone on a considerable tangent when my main point is that I revisited an entirely different place that I totally associate with driving trips with my mother for the first time since she died. That may not be my main point, but it certainly is part of the fabric of the situation.
In any case. I got to Penn Alps around 1 after hitting just terrible traffic on 95 south. I went directly to the hostess stand (past the still weird-to-me cashier plaza) to get a table. I was seated in an area I'm not sure I'd been to before. Though there is an especially cobwebbed part of my mind that feels like the answer is yes, and there was hot chocolate with whipped cream involved. But I could be wrong. In any case, I knew that my meal the last time hadn't been a runaway success so I tried to choose more carefully this time around. I went with a sweet tea that totally won. And enjoyed taking a look at the place mat - or should I say place map? With its nicely illustrated landmarks and routes as well as a pretty interesting slogan...the photographic evidence of which is only on my phone. Oh man it was funny, perhaps in part because of its spacing. It went:
Come once & see what we
have yet, still
That shit is deep.