Centralia PA was a mining town. In the early 60s, the mine caught on fire. The fire is supposedly still burning, although it's not visibly smoking any more. The fumes and the destabilization of the ground caused the whole town to be condemned in 1992 by the Governor, who seized the remaining property through eminent domain. The remaining residents later sued, saying the fire had moved and the air quality returned, and they won in court.
Getting there was a bit annoying. When you're riding a motorcycle, checking a map is not really convenient. Additionally, not having a smart phone any more, I don't have access to GPS directions. The Google Maps directions I wrote down and checked each time I stopped indicated several turns that I didn't have to make. This was not a huge problem, as I knew the route numbers that I needed to be on, and I could tell I was on the right roads.
Rather than taking 95 to 81, I took 15 up to 81. I'm glad I did that, because it was less time on 81. I really did not like 81. I really don't like going downhill on a curve on my motorcycle, and 81 goes through the mountains in Pennsylvania, so there's plenty of that. Plus, it's a high speed road with lots of trucks. I don't normally have problems with speeds that high or trucks, but the volume of the trucks combined with the speeds and the downhill turns made me very nervous. It's something I will need to take into account if I want to go across the country. I will either need to get used to this or find slower roads going through the mountains. Probably more of the former than the latter, given that the Rockies are going to be worse than the Appalachians.
However, it was a little over 180 miles, which is the longest I've ever ridden in one stretch. Additionally, it took me to Pennsylvania, the third state I've been to on a motorcycle. I think it was a good dry run for a trip to the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio, which will take me through West Virginia as well.
The main attraction seems to be the graffiti highway. There is a closed of section of route 61 leading up to Centralia that is about 3/4 of a mile long. It is completely covered with graffiti. Some of it is pretty new: I saw some back and forth about Trump there. And while 3/4 of a mile of graffiti is kind of impressive, it's not very good graffiti. In the whole 3/4 of a mile I saw maybe a dozen actual graffiti tags like you would expect to find in an urban setting. However, even those were just basic bubble writing, nothing really exceptional. There were also a couple of spots where someone with some artistic talent tried to do something, but nothing really impressive. It's a pity, I think someone with real artistic talent might be able to do something interesting with that stretch of road.
The main themes for the graffiti on the road seemed to be marijuana and dicks. I have heard it referred to as the "Penis Road." It looks like a bunch of teenage stoners went up there and forgot to bring any female stoners with them.
I called it an attraction because I was far from the only person there. When I got there another car with New Jersey plates was already parked at the end of 61. When I left there were five or six cards from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and I saw another biker riding off while I was walking back to my bike.
I found a path leading off of 61 that looked like an old road, and followed that into the woods. It was definitely something, as I found some odd pipes sticking out of the ground. However, there were some steep drop offs next to the path. I was reminded that the mine fire caused instability in the local ground, and one resident had been swallowed by a sink hole near his house (he survived). So I left that path and went back to the remains of 61.
I found another path off of 61 that looked more stable and had tire tracks on it. I followed that for a while, and found a whole series of gravel paths that I think are used by ATV riders. They might have been remnants from when the mine was open.
The Remnants of Town
I cut off of the gravel trails and through some high grasses and got back on the remains of a paved road. There wasn't much there to see, although I did get a nice picture of some stone stairs leading to nowhere. I believe most of the buildings in the town are immediately demolished by the state once they are abandoned, although the roads are somewhat intact (and somewhat over grown). I also found sections of the town that are still standing, but it is my understanding that people are still living in those houses, so I left them alone.
In terms of cool abandoned stuff, the place is pretty much a bust. There was some stuff laying around, like a couch, a TV, and some construction materials. However, it seemed more like dumping than abandonment. That place must be a dumpers dream, with all those abandoned roads you could just drive down in a truck and throw things over the side.
There are three graveyard in the area. One of them was clearly open and well maintained, and I went through it and checked it out. The second, I think a Greek Orthodox graveyard with triple crosses, was also well maintained, but less clearly open to random visitors. I took a picture but left it alone.
There was a third on the other side of the road. It looked like the inside has seen some maintenance, but the area around the fence was in poor shape. It was open in the sense that one of the gates had fallen open, but I didn't go in and check it out. While I was walking around the perimeter I found another path into the woods. However, a few steps in the ground felt very soft, so I played it safe and back out of the woods.
Lack of Preparation
I think I could have seen more of the town if I had been better prepared and had a better idea of the layout of the town relative the the closed off stretch of 61. There is apparently a church still standing in the town, but I don't think I walked far enough north in the town to have seen it.