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7.25.2021

Dreibelbis Station Covered Bridge: Before and After Rebuilding, Berks County


I will start by saying that the first time I saw the Dreibelbis Covered Bridge in Berks County, I was awe struck. It was easily my favorite covered bridge. It was huge and it still utilized its original structure, while also showing authentic weathering. The bridge looked like it had been there as long as it had, and the character looked great on it. Functionally though, the bridge needed to be redone so it could be utilized by ambulances and first responders for modern critical services within the region. So many times before, these bridges have just been torn out and replaced with a more modern span to achieve these ends. One of my favorite methods to achieve these ends is when a modern bridge crossing is built somewhere in the vicinity of the original covered bridge and the bridge itself gets converted into a pedestrian span. Instead of doing this, the community opted to create steel span and then rebuild the original structure on top of the new steel span and fully rehabilitate the bridge to look as if it were brand new. The end result looks fantastic. Part of me wishes they were able to preserve the original weight bearing structure, but aesthetically, it is very difficult to tell the difference for someone who is not a covered bridge nerd like myself. 
Before
After
The method of reconstruction that they utilized ensures that the heritage of the old bridge will never be forgotten, and it also ensures that the covered bridge will likely last forever and be suitable for modern needs. 
Before
And after....It just looks so fresh.
Before. I loved all of that weathered wood and the character it oozed.
Look at all of that fresh wood and beautiful stone pointing work. One cannot help but be impressed by meticulously beautiful work like this, especially with stone pointing. Stone and brick pointing like that is a difficult skill to master, with few people that can operate at that level. My feelings are mixed in that the classic construction of the bridge no longer remains, along with the aged character that it had before, but I am encouraged by the fact that the bridge will still be here for generations to come and that the span is now able to service the modern needs of the area it serves. Nothing lasts forever, but the work that they put in place with this rehabilitation will ensure that people will know this crossing as a covered bridge for many years to come. 
Ten minutes east of here, you can see a smaller version of this covered bridge with the Kutz Mill Covered Bridge. This stunning little covered bridge has an intact old mill along with it as well. This is beautiful countryside to drive around in and just soak in. Crystal Cave is also located within close vicinity. For more of a historic background on Dreibelbis Station Covered Bridge and statistical information, check out this previous article. This bridge has also made our list of our absolute favorite covered bridges in the state

7.18.2021

Schaefer's Auto Art Erie: Awesome Sculptures Made From Scrap Cars

Occasionally I find myself walking through a U-Pull parts yard in search of car parts. It is a depressing experience to see a bunch of cars that have met their fate, never to be driven again, with them often having been involved in an accident or be so far gone that their best days are clearly behind them and long gone. 

Often, the first thing you see before you get to the car yard itself is the giant electromagnetic wrecker machine, picking up a full car by the roof and then putting it into the cruncher, retrieving it, and putting it into a tractor trailer once the vehicle has been completely flattened into a foot tall object that resembles a pancake.  I do not like get sentimental about inanimate objects like this, but cannot help but do so at the same time, thinking about how many memories have been made in those vehicles, or by feeling a sense of regret in seeing a potentially drivable vehicle get crushed and hauled away to be melted down. The thing that reassures me about this process is that the once the vehicle gets melted down, it will get turned into something new and useful again, like a refrigerator, a soda can, air conditioners, or perhaps even a new car. What is discarded eventually becomes new in this process, with people like me coming to the yards to pull off reusable parts before the vehicle gets crushed. It is reassuring to me knowing that I am able to pick off some of these parts when I go because I give them another chance to ride on a vehicle again.

In Erie, one place has come up with a creative way to reuse cars and car parts in their current form and create something new at the same time. Schaefer's Auto Art in Erie is a tremendously awesome and offbeat place to checkout some awesome creativity. 

Rocket, cop car, and bumblebee. The rocket, thanks to info from the family's own website, utilizes truck leaf springs, Oldsmobile Rocket V-8 engines, and you can see the passenger seat on the upper left of this photo, which was salvaged from a Subaru Brat Truck. 

Schaefer's Auto Art is a labor of love that has saved cars that were headed to the scrap yard and turned them and other automotive components into spectacular sculptures. 

Dino sparkplug teeth aka "Two Headed Dinosaur"

Public art is something that can be expensive to make. It is tough to find material that is affordable to use in large quantities let alone the will to be able to display such pieces. Muffler Men, a once common roadside classic, are slowly disappearing because the fiberglass that was used to produce them is deteriorating and it is very difficult and expensive to repair.  Similar to the PennDOT Road Sign Sculpture Garden, just south of here in Crawford County, this place uses vehicles that would otherwise be discarded and transforms them into sculptures of creatures that are larger than life. 

Richard "Dick" Schaefer worked at a scrap yard and felt that same urge to do something cool with cars and parts that would otherwise be crushed and melted. He started making this art in 1988 and this whole thing is a family operation. 

I think the coolest thing about this whole exhibit is that they have created something out of what would otherwise be considered nothing and discarded. Stuff that would literally be considered junk has been turned into fantastic art that attracts visitors from all over in a way that I have always contemplated but never had the wherewithal to execute. It is incredibly impressive. 

"Bumblebee," made from an upcycled old cement mixer from Warren Steel and an old Saab.

With welding skill, they have transformed scrap cars into art, while also preserving vehicles that would otherwise be gone to history. As an aficionado of old cars and hard work ethic and dedication in people, Schaefer's Auto Art is an absolutely must-see place. There is no reason to not stop by this roadside oddity if you are headed to the beautiful beaches of Presque Isle State Park, the rides and world class Ravine Flyer II wooden roller coaster at Waldameer, the Lake Shore Railway Museum and the wineries of North East and the Lake Erie coastline through Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY and the many other awesome attractions the region has to offer. Considering that this is also located along the major east-west corridor of I-90 and I-86, this is an ideal place to pull off for a rest stop for road trippers.

The Schaefer Family's website, https://www.schaefersautoart.com has a better background and rundown on their attraction and more information about visiting. Be sure to check out this awesome place. It is located at 3705 Hershey Road, Erie, PA

7.11.2021

Cascade Park and Big Run Falls: Picnic Grounds and Amusement Park Ruins: New Castle, Lawrence County

New Castle's Cascade Park has lasted as a picnic destination for more than a century. It started off as an amusement park that was built by a local streetcar company to boost weekend ridership. People would dress in their Sunday best to go and have a relaxing day at the park's groves, take a spin on the amusement rides at the park, and socialize with people. The amusement park was opened in 1897 and hung on through 1982. After the amusement park was abandoned, efforts were made to preserve many of the structures of the old amusement park. Thanks to this effort, the park sits as one of the most intact sets of amusement park ruins, while still being used for its initial purpose, as a popular picnic area. The old carousel pavilion, ballroom, coaster station, and more remain refurbished and intact, and used as picnic groves. The centerpiece of the park is a beautiful waterfall. Just beyond the drop of the waterfall, you can see the supports from the park's old roller coaster that used to drop right into the gorge. Sadly the coaster was removed when the park closed, but the old supports leave lots to the imagination. I can only imagine how neat it would be for a coaster to drop into a chilly gorge on a hot summer day in this park. As an amusement park aficionado and someone who seeks out waterfalls, this is something I really wish I had the chance to experience. Even without the roller coaster and rides though, this park is still a lovely and lively picnic area that is well worth checking out. 

For more background on when this place was an amusement park, check out this article on our other page. 





Cascade Park is a wonderful place to explore, take in a community event, and picnic. Well worth a stop if you are in the area, or to take a picnic to for a little afternoon relaxation.
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