checking in at the penn hills resort

The Penn Hills Resort in Analomink, PA, is arguably past its prime.

I hadn’t ventured into such a massive expanse of buildings & grounds since exploring the ruins of Magic Harbor (an old British-themed amusement park) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in the early 90s (since demolished).

072614_03Some bathrooms showed signs of use at some point, but surprisingly we only encountered one small shack within the many acres that was possibly inhabited by someone.

072614_04In the main office rooms (behind the lobby) we found a surprising amount of photocopied social security cards, deeds to properties, and old checks, not to mention endless marketing materials for all the amenities.

An old walkway by the indoor ice skating rink (which currently houses tons of decaying bedroom sets).

I don’t need to tell you that indoor pools and hot tubs are the holy grails of exploration.

Every one of these rooms (overlooking the outdoor pool) we went into still had a large bed with mirrors all around (often on the ceiling too) and organic/heart-shaped bathtubs. The place was apparently advertised as the go-to honeymoon spot, and at one point in the 70s it was actively targeting swinging couples.

The lobby / check-in area had a series of round rooms with mirrors on the ceiling — perfectly retro-futuristic. The resort is one of those places where a set of ten photos just can’t capture it all.

072614_09Inside what we presumed to be the executive/owner’s house, tucked away deeper into a field behind some overgrown tennis, basketball, and shuffleboard courts. It is square, one floor with a nice (and super overgrown) courtyard in the center. We went in through the double-garage doors in the back. We couldn’t get up the guts to explore the basement.

It certainly wouldn’t be possible for such a large resort to decay so slowly if it was remotely close to a city. Every so often vandalism is reported to the local authorities, but the property owners don’t seem to be concerned with securing it, which can only mean that it’s eventual fate is demolition. If you’re in the Poconos, it’s worth a visit, but ask for one of the nicer rooms.


resting in pieces

Mount Moriah Cemetery in the southwest corner of Philadelphia’s outskirts.

I had heard about the place being in a state of decay (though it is slowly being unearthed and restored), but it was still fascinating to see tombstones arising out of massive patches of Japanese Knotweed, Ailanthus, Mugwort, Princess Trees, you name it – it feels like every weed in Philly has carved out a place here, though the Trees-of-Heaven might be winning.

Weather having its way with larger structures.


There seem to be many acres that haven’t been touched in a while – and while they’re filled with graves, only the tallest are visible without clearing the jungle.





Approaching this particular clearing in the dense Ailanthus, I found myself asking, “are we still in Philly?”

the forgotten viaduct

I may have mentioned it before, but Philadelphia has an abandoned, elevated train line very close to downtown, similar to the High Line in Manhattan before it became a park. I finally got an opportunity to check it out a few days ago when Hans and Des were in town briefly from Brooklyn.

Looking south. Something gives off that vibe of being a place that could provide some refuge during something like a citywide zombie apocalypse, being that you’re a few stories up, and there’s enough collected dirt and plant matter to start a farm.

Despite running on about an hour of sleep the previous night, Des seems cheerful as ever.

I heard that some of the brush had been cleared — but there were still some leafless, deciduous Paulonias (princess trees) claiming their ground. If you’re familiar with them, they have massive leaves, and are quick-growing. This space must be even more magical in the late growing season (mid-late August).

I really cannot wait to see the area in about five months.

A stretched Hummer on Broad street. That’s the old Enquirer brick smokestack on the left.

• I had a great visit up in NYC part of last week for an intensive 2-day course, plus got in some time with my brother, his fiancee, and a couple friends. I managed to not take a single shot while I was up that way, a first.

Another Philly stealthy camper, beside about 3,000 plastic bottles and a traffic cone.

Cincinnati, Ohio, this past December.

winter rooftops

Facing south toward Center City, about twelve floors up, on the top of an abandoned warehouse just north of Girard in Olde Kensington, Philadelphia.

The top of an elevator shaft.

Rich had the idea to check the spot out — and the views were stunning.

Luckily Rich brought a light — the ground floor and basement levels were pretty dark.

Jenn and I checked out the Hobo Film Festival at Space 1026 in Chinatown a few nights ago. It was a great selection of documentary shorts from over the past few decades showing the lives of the people who hop rides on freight trains.

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.”
– Mohammed

• A week and a half ago, I had the opportunity to see Mayor Nutter speak to a gathering of design professionals at the WHY-Y space (one of Philly’s PBS stations). He gave an introduction to a night of round-table discussions on the current state (and future) of creative vitality in Philadelphia. The man is a great speaker – he had the room laughing, I’m a fan.

The Starlight Ballroom Dance Club is near Spring Garden.

painting a picture of tomorrow

Inside the decaying US Canning Factory in Northside, Cincinnati.

Jenn and I just spent a little over four days in Cincinnati, allowing for me to explore areas of town that were new to me, thanks to rides from Nate, John, Sylvia, and Kelli, to name a few. We didn’t have easy access to bikes and the region is sprawling, like most US cities. Happy birthday to John (Senior) and Johnny (the Third).

A massive, old KFC bucket sign in an industrial corner of Cincinnati, with some ailanthus in the background on the left.

An area of Cincinnati called “Over the Rhine,” referencing it’s strong German roots. These days, crack addicts and sad alcoholics are seen roaming the streets. Definitely more closed businesses than open ones.

A trail down the hillside near the Gorman Heritage Farm. With the recent spring rains, all of the plants were super healthy, and not yet beaten down by the upcoming heat of summer. (This past July we were also at the edge of this farm: here).

We were happy to see a marching band had arrived, coincidentally, outside of Kelli’s children’s book store in Oakley, Cincinnati, in the early evening. I’m not sure that the girl with the red balloon was actually involved, but she seemed to demand attention from the crowd.

Definitely a lot of dogs. That’s Charlie in the cone on the left, Moonlight on the right.

Also, a reader told me about People of Public Transit recently, some great daily, candid shots of riders – somewhat in the vein of Vice magazine’s “Do’s and Dont’s.”

we may need to redraw the map

Fort Tilden is a 50-minute bike ride from my apartment in Brooklyn, and is located on the Atlantic Ocean.  It is one of my favorite places in the New York City area.  I have still only explored a small fraction of the land out there.

The shower facilities could possibly use a contemporary remodeling.


Moments almost feel like you’re on the set for a spaghetti western in the 1960s.


Ben, contemplating his upcoming move to the Los Angeles area, on his roof, here in South Slope, Brooklyn.  A handful of my friends are packing up and moving to the other coast.

A successful (albeit, rushed) harvest from Hans’ rooftop garden.  We used some of these ingredients on some homemade pizzas that evening.

pitfalls and transgressions

Governor’s Island is a short, free ferry ride from the south end of Manhattan.  It’s been abandoned for about 10 years.  Since then, it’s been made into somewhat of a park / landmarked site / location of art installations.  I highly recommend you bring your bike to explore, though if you don’t, they actually have bike rentals on the island now.

There are many acres of empty housing, in various states of disrepair, due to roofs starting to cave in, and the strong ocean breeze taking it’s toll on them.  The city has been largely successful in keeping vandals out, which causes these places to feel like an untouched ghost town.

You may have been following the Swimming Cities of Serenissma recently (an extension of the Swimming Cities of the Switchback Sea, however this vessel pictured above is possibly more compelling, for it’s sustainability alone.  The project is called The Water Pod, and it’s currently docked on the south side of Governor’s Island, and houses crew amidst livestock, rainwater collection and filtration, while also growing many diverse plants and utilizing other alternative energy (ie: stationary bicycles that generate electricity).  Additionally the two large geodesic domes serve as beautiful, 1960s-era removable shelters.  Definitely check out the project.

• I caught a free Matt & Kim show at Pier 54 in Manhattan last week one night after work.  Robin and a few of her friends ran into Jenn and I there, and we caught some of the Flosstradamus set, as well as the entire main act.  Matt & Kim seemed thrilled to be playing at the space, but it didn’t feel like the best environment to experience a show (due to being long and narrow, sound dissipating in all directions, and no slope to the space, making for obstructed views all around).  However, still a scene (a pretty young crowd, as to be expected), and great to see them free.

My block may be even more rowdy than I’ve been giving it credit for.  Sure, I’ve definitely seen drug deals, livery cabs meeting up for lots of coronas between shifts, many people stopping their car to relieve themselves near the cemetery, and all of the extra trash that shows up at the end of the street mysteriously, however, I have not yet seen public sex, prostitution, or break-ins.  Time permitting, I’ll have to check out this community meeting, it sounds like my block is on the up-and-up!

If you’ll bear with me a minute, I’d like to provide an update on Jenn’s and my current bike stable:

This past Friday, I picked up a really nice 5-rail Cetma rack for my primary commuter, my 2008 Mercier Kilo TT, nicknamed “the Urban Explorer.”  Thanks to the guys at King Kog over in the Williamsburg area.  I’ve already people asking me on the street where to get them.  Lane currently has the black 5-rail on sale on his site.  I’ve heard they can hold a lot of weight, though I’ve only done a smallish grocery store run with it thus far.

Affectionately known as “the Backup Bike,” I picked up this 1988 Centurion Ironman the other month via NYC Craigslist for a really great price.  I may have mentioned it previously, it’s got all Shimano 105 components, and recently I replaced the bar tape with bright yellow FSA tape, changed out the nice, stock Nitto stem for a shorter Kalloy, replaced the slightly-too-short Sugino seatpost with a lighter, used Bontrager post, and replaced the pedals setup with MKS GR-9s and MKS (LL) clips, among other small changes.

Jenn’s new bike (a 1988ish Peugeot Nice) was a recent addition, to replace her 1983 Miyata 210, which had been known as “Brownie.”  There may still be some slight tweaks in the future, but it definitely a step up from the Miyata, in terms of components, gearing, color, and weight.

OK, back to the regularly scheduled programming.

Recent ink: I got a raven that I drew tattooed onto my arm by Mike Drexler over at Fly-Rite in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  They do great work over there, highly recommened, plus Mike’s a good guy.

• Two blocks over, Landis and Ed hosted a fundraiser rooftop party for Landis and David Downs to run for charity in some upcoming marathon/half-marathons.  Excellent chicken sandwiches from Jacob, a fellow former North Carolinian, and Cindy provided great burgers (vidalia onions inside, and topped with tomatoes and guacamole).

In closing, here’s one more picture (of Jenn) from the Outer Banks, North Carolina trip the other week.

you’re painting a kinda-gross picture

A handful of 35mm scans from a trip up to Connecticut for some canoeing the other weekend.

The vignetting in bright daylight with the $4 plastic camera I picked up a few weeks back is intense.  You’d be surprised at the amount of abandoned factories and warehouses to explore along the riverfront.  The homeless population seemed pretty low from our surface-level survey, we only discovered one or two somewhat permanent habitations.

We visited the scenic waterfall where Shane proposed to Echo several years back.  Certainly a popular hangout spot for the local teens.

As a followup to what I was talking about the other day, here is one of the aforementioned tiny groves a block from my apartment in South Slope, Brooklyn.  While the recent non-stop rain has been obnoxious for commuting via bicycle, the weeds on the sidewalk have been loving it.  This tree was unfortunately chopped down a while back, but it has company at the moment; a whole little ecosystem, semi-fertilized by people’s dogs and occasional banana peel.