Adrienne Wolter shares local restaurant reviews, day trips and cooking adventures
A roadtrip is one of the best ways to take in the scenery. (Photo credit: Nicholas A Tonelli)
Central Pennsylvania is sometimes thought of as the blank part of the state between the two major cities: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Not so! These two cities are more well-known than others in the state, but that does not mean that they are the only two places to have fun in PA. Central PA has an overwhelming number of attractions that could keep you busy for months.
That doesn't mean you can always just hop in the car and go. To ensure that your family is as safe and happy as possible, and you don't run into any major roadblocks (real or figurative), bookmark this advice and refer to it before your next road trip. No need to thank me!
Got any other sage wisdom? Please share your two cents in the comments below! If there’s something crazy that I missed, I'll add it to the list.
Before beginning any adventure, it is always advisable to ensure that the vehicle being used is able to handle the ride. Even if the car seems to be working fine, still get it checked to ensure no problems or discrepancies hinder the planned road trip. I've had my fair share of car problems (that’s what I get for going on long trips with a 12 year old vehicle), so believe me when I tell you these are some good ideas:
Inspect Tires – Check the tires while they are cold (as in, before driving any considerable distance) to get a better reading on them. Ensure tire pressure in all four tires is of the proper specification. Visit a gas station or local car wash with an air pump (PS – most Sheetz have these for free) to fill any low-pressure tires. To avoid a possible blowout, here’s a neat trick: place a quarter between a tread in the tire, head facing you. If the head is not visible, your tires are not in jeopardy of blowing out. However, if the head is visible, a blowout is likely to happen and complete replacement of a tire is advisable.
Check Fluids – Fluids such as coolant, oil and transmission fluid should all be checked to ensure they are at the proper levels. The owner’s manual of your vehicle will describe how to check if the fluid levels are good or if they need a quick refill, or watch this YouTube video for an overview. Lack of oil can cause an engine blowout, low coolant can cause overheating, dirty oil can cause engine clogging and lack of transmission fluid can cause the transmission to overheat. Spending a few minutes checking your fluids could mean the difference between getting to your destination safe and sound or sitting longingly beside the road with an injured vehicle while other cars pass you by.
Brake Check – Go to an empty parking lot and slowly accelerate. Brake slowly and see if you detect any pulling to one side, grinding or vibrating – all are signs of possible bad brakes. Brake pads are cheap to replace until they get too worn down; then it can be a costly procedure.
Battery usage – Many auto shops have the equipment necessary to check the charging capabilities of your battery. Starting the car is impossible without some juice in the battery.
Examine Belts and Hoses – Belts and hoses are what make the car run smoothly. If there are any cracks, soft spots, excessive wear and tear or blistering they could snap at any time and could possibly cause a life-threatening accident. Ensure that all belts and hoses are secure and stable. For guidance, watch this YouTube video.
Wipers – When your windshield wipers go bad, they won’t work as well – which might not be an issue in a drizzle but it will become a huge problem if there’s a torrential downpour or blizzard. The weather has a habit of being unpredictable. It is vital to prepare and ensure your vehicle can handle any weather conditions you might face.
Lights – Ensure that all lights in the car are working properly. Anywhere from the interior lights to the headlights and taillights, it is vital to ensure that every light is operable. Replace any missing or broken headlights or their coverings.
Air Filter – Ensuring the air filter is clean will ensure the engine works smoothly.
Car Gauges – The dashboard is important since it gives the proper readings on everything in the car. Have your mechanic check to see if any gauges could be malfunctioning and quickly get it replaced. When you get pulled over for speeding is not the time to discover your speedometer is off-kilter.
While preparing the car is important, preparing yourself is equally as beneficial for the trip. There are several things to remember to do before or bring along on your trip.
GPS – One of the more important aspects of your trip will be direction. Even pre-planning the route does not mean that there are not going to be unexpected detours along the way. A GPS will be great for getting around without having to pull out the map.
Map and Guidebook – That’s right – I said map. One of the most important things to bring with you is a map or guidebook of PA. You may think your fancy schmancy GPS is enough, but it’ll be dumb as a doorknob if you’re up in the mountains and lose connection. Make sure you get the most up to date copy you can get – roads often change, and you don’t want to find yourself heading down an unmaintained logging road before a blizzard.
Cell Phone – A cell phone will be vital to keep in touch with family members, friends and to call 911 in case of emergency. Never get caught without a cell phone.
Car chargers – If any electronics (including cell phones) are being brought as necessities onto the trip, ensure there is a car charger in the event you cannot reach a wall socket.
Emergency Kit – Most auto shops and dealerships have car emergency kits for a reasonable price, or you can assemble one yourself. These kits usually contain extra car supplies, flashlights, a medical kit and other essential tools. If you’re traveling in cold weather, also consider bringing blankets for each person and sandbags to weigh down the back of your car if you don’t have four-wheel drive.
Snacks – Always ensure that you have road trip snacks planned ahead of time. This includes drinks and food – especially in central PA. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a gas station if you get lost in Amish country. I recommend gathering the amount you think you’ll need, then doubling it. Better safe than sorry.
Music & Games – It is vital to have some tunes to bring with you and, if you have kids, have games ready for them to prolong any uncomfortable and boring trips. Learning a few car games ahead of time won’t hurt!
Plan Stops – Prepare to stop for food and know where you can stop before doing so. This also means you must already have the route planned as well.
Book Hotel Reservations – If you intend to stay several nights in another part of PA, know which town you will stay in and book a hotel reservation ahead of time. Do not wait until you get there since hotels might be booked by then. On the other hand, waiting until the last minute can mean you get some great deals – it all depends on the flexibility of your schedule.
Ready to get your roadtrip on? Here are ten great central PA locations to get you started. If you still need ideas, check out the video below for a little staycation inspiration!
Amateur Softball Association of PA Hall of Fame
Location: Sunbury, PA
Description: Displays all memorable softball experiences that occurred in PA; Training center for the youth.
Location: Lewisburg, PA
Description: Local produce from farms to truly get the "PA experience" if you have not really been given it.
Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble
Location: Bloomsburg, PA
Description: Professional Theatre for shows.
Location: Lewisburg, PA
Description: Displays art deco architecture for art enthusiasts and is built into a theatre to run independent and classic films.
Location: Bloomsburg, PA
Description: Educationally based interactive exhibits.
Clyde Peeling's Reptiland
Location: Allenwood, PA
Description: A zoo that displays over 40 species of reptiles and amphibians.
Lake Tobias Wildlife Park
Location: Halifax, PA
Description: A zoo that exhibits wild exotic animals and gives safari tours.
Knoebels Amusement Park
Location: Elysburg, PA
Description: This small, but historical, amusement park is known for being a great place for families and spectators to come and view the scenery. Everything from the parking to admission is free and there are two wooden roller coasters featured in addition to the largest and oldest Carousel in the world.
Heritage Aviation LLC
Location: Williamsport, PA
Description: Includes sightseeing through helicopter, flying lessons and other flight services – this is a fun adventure for anyone.
Penn's Cave and Wildlife Park
Location: Centre Hall, PA
Description: In America, this park is the only all-water cavern/wildlife park.
Cherry Springs State Park
Location: Coudersport, PA
Description: This state park boasts the darkest skies on the East Coast, perfect for stargazing.
The Trolley Ride
Location: Selinsgrove, PA
Description: Local wine tour to three wineries. Open to residents and visitors Spring and Fall.
Video By CJ Pony Parts