Across the State Line to Titusville, PA

A drive from Northeast Ohio took my husband and I into Pennsylvania along scenic country roads, past fields of corn and soybeans and farmhouses with wrap around porches and pretty flowers planted at the base of mailboxes and along gravel drives. Homemade signs offered “Honey for Sale” and “Farm Fresh Eggs.” Red barns, a few painted with old “Mail Pouch” advertisements were surrounded with tractors and farm machinery, rusty old and shiny new. Cows grazed in sunny pastures. Every now and then we passed through a small town. People hurried along sidewalks, stepping in and out of hardware stores and furniture galleries. An elderly couple holding hands strolled into a diner. Typical scenes of rural America made the two hour drive to Titusville, Pennsylvania one of the most enjoyable parts of our day.

Before reaching Titusville we stopped off for lunch in the small town of Franklin. I had found a highly rated restaurant there and as lunchtime approached we became anxious to try it out. Following our GPS “lady in the box” down a narrow and hilly gravel road that I do not recommend, we found both the town and the restaurant as well as a parking spot on the street.

The Amazing Café – yes, that really is the name of the place – is in a nicely renovated old house. A fun and friendly waitress led us to a nice little table for two in the front window.

The lunch menu was mostly soups, salads, and sandwiches. A list of daily specials included three different kinds of quiche and a pasta selection. We both chose the pasta. It was a large serving garnished with three of the biggest and tastiest shrimp I’ve ever eaten. For dessert we shared a delicious lemon cream cake. The Amazing Café served an amazing meal.

From Franklin it wasn’t far to Titusville and the Drake Well Museum. Titusville is the birthplace of the oil industry. I’ve never really had much interest in the oil industry. But the Drake Well Museum was, well, a museum. And I have never been one to pass up an educational opportunity, even one that I might think of as dull or boring.

The Drake Well Museum turned out to be a much bigger and more modern facility than I had expected. Despite making no mention of climate change or the effects of fossil fuel on the environment, I found the displays to be informative. Despite my disinterest in the subject, I found them interesting. I learned a little bit of geology and a lot about Pennsylvania history.  I even learned some Native American folklore.

The movie however… well, if I were you, I’d skip the movie. It not only lacks any historical or geological information, but it is childishly designed for the level of a 4th grader. Talking cartoon oil droplets spent ten minutes extolling the virtues of the oil industry. Yippee. Hooray for us. Isn’t our dirty old oil the greatest thing ever?! The movie is pure propaganda and its entertainment value is zip.

Happy to escape the theater, we headed outside and wandered the grounds where pieces and parts of machinery were scattered between historic buildings that housed displays of the oil industry’s early history.

I can imagine someone with a real interest in the subject spending two or even three hours here, browsing both indoor and outdoor displays. For my husband and I, and for most people with no more than a passing interest, the hour and a half we spent at the Drake Well Museum (including time browsing the small gift shop) was adequate.

Summer hours are: Tuesday – Saturday  9 – 5, Sunday noon – 5. Closed on Monday. Adult admission is $10.

There are other things of interest to do in and around Titusville. The Tarbell House is the fully-restored 1870 home of Progressive Era investigative journalist  and “muckraker” Ida Tarbell. Also in Titusville is the Oil Creek Railroad, a three-hour narrated train ride that I wish I’d known about beforehand. As I read the description of it now, it sounds like it is a trip that brings history to life in a fun and entertaining way. I’m sorry to have missed it.

Following our museum visit my husband and I took a drive through the nearby Oil Creek State Park. The park is in a rural area and has been pretty much left in the care of Mother Nature – meaning we saw few amenities. We did see some marked hiking trails; there is a bike path; and families can enjoy a picnic area with picnic tables and grills.

If you want a place to spend the night, check out the Caboose Motel. 20+ caboose train cars have been converted into motel rooms. I’ve never stayed there, but it sure looks fun!

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