On and Off The Mountain/Stephanie Grubert

The Interstate 81 slowdowns are ongoing and a source of traveler angst. Construction on the southbound lane between the Nuangola and Dorrance Exits for the past 4 weeks is wreaking havoc with travelers. Locals and those in the know can choose to take 309 South with delays, but better than the I-81 debacle.

Last week I called our PennDOT media contact James Mays who told me 15X15 sections of concrete are being dug out, base repair and then new concrete installed from Wilkes Barre to Dorrance--10 miles or more. No notice given to press. May said he didn’t think the project was so complicated. May emphatically stated that the work and the land restriction would be completed by Friday July 24 at 3 p. m.

The next day on July 24 about 3 p. m. we got another PennDot advisory: “The right lane is open on I-81 South at the Nuangola Exit. The work was taking place from milepost 158.5 to 157.5. The working will resume from 7 a. m. to 4 pm. On Monday July 27 and continue to Thursday July 30.”

OK, so for three weeks one mile on I-81 southbound has been restricted for construction repairs. The restriction begins about 7 miles before the one lane takes over. And why would this project take 4 weeks?

PennDot has elastic deadlines. No, they have no deadlines with their contractors. How many times have we seen few if any construction workers on a restricted lane site? Too many.

Road construction comes from the top. Governor Tom Ridge’s administration repaired more roads and bridges than any other governor in recent service. And that was way too long ago. Our current governor Tom Wolfe has not taken charge of PennDot’s agenda.

Gypsy Moth Applications Due

The gypsy moths are no longer stripping trees in neighborhoods and woodlands in Mountaintop, but they are ever present in the form of egg masses that will hatch next spring and continue their vicious cycle of devastation. Luzerne County is accepting gypsy moth suppression program applications from individuals and community groups until August 14, 2015. The applications are available for download at luzernecounty.orgor at municipal buildings in each township.

The Wright Township Environmental Advisory Council will sponsor a gypsy moth forum at 7 p. m. Monday, Aug. 3, at the Wright Township Municipal Building. Guest speaker will be an urban forester from the Penn State Cooperative Extension Service who will present information on the gypsy moth and answer residents’ questions.

Hot Days Require Planning

With many days of hot sunny weather in our recent past and on into this week I have learned how to pace my outdoor activities for maximum enjoyment and minimal distress. I grew up in the mild Pacific Northwest climate where the occasional 90-degree day was rarity, much like our Mountaintop summers but without the humidity. From decades of living on the East Coast I know what to expect for summertime. Still it can be challenging.

The vegetable garden this year is amazing. The biggest stars have yet to bloom. The 15 plus feet sunflowers are planted around the perimeter of my garden. Last year I did not get one seed to germinate. This year just about every one pushed through the earth to the light and has been shooting up ever since. Our mix of rain and cooler temperatures in early July left the lettuce with perfect growing conditions, another best of show. I got one shiny black eggplant this week. I will give it a special recipe treatment.

Listening to Nature & Literature

Nature is beautiful and puzzling. The birds sing. The deer frolic in the wood. The squirrels and chipmunks are busy at their tasks. I walk in their midst.

I am also a big fan of anything on Masterpiece on PBS. This summer ‘Poldark” has totally captured my imagination. It is based on four books written by British author Winston Graham from 1946 to 1953 and chronicles the challenges of life in Cornwall England between 1783 and 1793.

The Masterpiece series is so entertaining I started listening to the Poldark books on my iPhone and am caught up to the action on the screen. It is a “page turner” all right and is going on my daily walk and beyond.

I believe one gets better retention from reading a book, but the audible version allows you to tackle 1000 page tomes over many hours while walking or exercising for an entertaining result. This year I have listened to lengthy biographies about Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Albert Einstein and The Emperor of All Maladies, the biography of cancer. In between I opt for fiction and non-fiction. There are thousands of enjoyable titles out there.

End of July and Beyond We are coming up to the end of

July, which is my favorite month for its long days and agreeable weather. Each month holds its own special rewards.

The Dicus family is embarking on a western adventure this week. Lara, Mark and our lively grandchildren Charlie 14, Patrick 12, Kate 10 and Maggie 7 are trekking across country in their camping equipped packed mini-van with stops at Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Arches National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver Colorado and Cedar Point, Ohio. Charlie and I made the cross-country trip in 1984. Once was enough for me. There is no variation in the horizon until you get to the Badlands in South Dakota from Pennsylvania and that is 1500 miles.

Driving across the country at least once gives you a reference for how large our great nation is. Coast to coast non-stop flying is about 6 hours. Before the west was settled in the 1800’s the trip took a minimum of 6 months. Driving 500 to 700 miles a day will get you in the vicinity of your first stop in four days. That’s a lot of time for checking out corn and wheat fields and the prairie.

Our kids have their itinerary planned and reservations made. The next couple of weeks will be a great adventure.