We spent the weekend in the middle of nowhere and we had a really great time. It took us nearly three hours to get there by car. Even the GPS got lost a few times. Despite a driving rain, we arrived, unsure of what to expect.
Our trip took us through some breathtaking countryside. The rolling hills, green and dotted with farms, stretched out as far as we could see. Many of the roads we took were unnervingly unpaved, but we were reassured by the presence of many, many cows, the barns they live in and other buildings indicative of a lively dairy operation. As far as we could tell, there was electricity in this neck of the woods. All along these bucolic country roads, people at their mailboxes, on lawn tractors, or simply near the road, would pause and give a friendly wave. It was lovely.
We found our friends’ house, which address they usually give as the “middle of nowhere”, but is sometimes known as Thompson, Pennsylvania, and saw lots more landscape but also a modern home. Indoor plumbing, cold beer in the fridge and burgers smoking on the grill gave lie to their descriptions of their annual summer retreat. We were pleased to note that others lived near this lake in the middle of nowhere and we knew we would survive the weekend with ease.
I suppose it must have been really weird for their neighbors to overhear our dockside conversation in Japanese. Our entire group is blue-eyed and not Asian in any way. And if those eavesdroppers listened carefully, they would have noticed that some of the accents were better than others. These friends are one of our greatest souvenirs of our time spent living in Tokyo. They are Americans, by way of Texas, living as expats in Japan and alternately visiting their college-age offspring scattered across the United States. It was a grand reunion indeed.
One of the highlights of our time in nowhere, was a visit to Arlo’s. We traveled there on four-wheel contraptions, also known as quads, across those unpaved roads, through waist high grassy fields, and on the occasional paved road. All the while, I was enjoying the lovely forested scenery and keeping a sharp eye out for bears. I’m certain the sound of these engines would have scared off the average bear, but one can never be too careful in such situations.
From a distance, Arlo’s looks like a gas station with a tilting, wooden convenience store attached to it. Upon closer inspection, you will find a tavern, miniature golf, a country store, deli, ice cream counter, rooms for rent, ATM, diesel and regular gas, a fire pit and a covered outdoor stage where live music draws a crowd on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.
“You can get anything you want” is their motto and you will believe it for sure when you wander through the country store. The shelves are filled with a variety of useful items including realistic, fish-head beer cozies, carved, life-size wooden bears, several varieties of jerky, wall décor, and t-shirts and sweatshirts sporting one of two Arlo’s logos. You can even order an Arlo’s do-rag from their website. They also stock the more mundane necessities of life and truly live up to their promise. I even saw diapers and strawberry jam among the fishing lures, hunting gear and vinyl rain suits for sale.
The tavern room is quite charming with wide, pine paneling on the walls. A fireplace at the end of the room must be really nice in the wintertime. The bar stretches across the length of the opposite end, complete with huge, long-horn skull resplendent above the mirror and rows of bottles. About a dozen stools were occupied by men focused on the task at hand. There was very little talk, only a deep-voiced murmur similar to the sound of bees in a hive. No one looked up when we entered and ordered gin and tonics. Our host was tempted to ask for an umbrella in his glass but we convinced him that it would be unseemly to get into a real bar fight in the middle of the day. I can imagine that the energy level in this room bumps up several notches once the sun goes down.
Our time in nowhere was brief but we saw a lot and enjoyed every minute. Happily, we will meet up with these friends again before they return to Tokyo. This time, we will rendez-vous in New York City, which to me, is the center of the universe. Luckily, it is only about three hours by car from the middle of nowhere to center of everything.