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Sssssteam Heat

A fence that once divided a front yard and the sidewalk in Centralia, PA.

Yesterday I took a nice road trip with my folks to what had been the town of Centralia, PA. For 50 years this poor ghost town has had a mine fire burning underground. It still had a population of about 1,000 in the early 1980’s but is less than a dozen today. I saw one house left standing on the eastern end of Wood St. I only knew it was Wood Street because of a hand-made sign tacked to a tree, all street signs have been taken down. All properties in the borough were claimed under eminent domain by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1992 (and all buildings therein were condemned), and Centralia’s ZIP code was revoked by the Post Office in 2002. The one house was that of but a few residents that continue to reside there in spite of the failure of a lawsuit to reverse the eminent domain claim.

Old highway.

It’s a sad story but the idea of an underground fire that has burned for half a century is just fascinating. There is a long section of highway (PA 61 and 54) that had to be rerouted in 1999. The abandoned section accessible on foot but there are warning signs throughout the town because sinkholes have been known to open suddenly.

The destroyed stretch of highway is less than a mile in length but is a buckled, warped and undulating mass of asphalt. It has been distorted by the heat of the underground fires to the point the pavement has cracked and broken into wide fissure that emit a spooky steam. Sometimes the ground can get quite warm and you can feel the bottoms of your shoes effected.

Less a fascination but still a curiosity is how is has become a mile long canvas for graffiti. This is literally street art, mostly spray painted and poorly crafted by coal region pubescent angst. Occasionally there is a rare gem of creativity to be taken in. Once we saw a small war of plastic cowboys and Indians being waged across a steaming cavern. The miniature scene was gone, washed and worn away as most of what I had remembered from May 2010.

Spray Dude!

If anyone ever plans to visit Centralia for photographic reasons, consider that the steam is much more pronounced during different weather conditions. I thought the cold would have made it stand out so we chose to return in the winter. Unfortunately, the breezy day and less humidity made it much harder to notice in any area. The ground didn’t warm our shoes as it had in May 2010 and all that we could get photos of were some interesting graffiti. I won’t say which ones I added but I left two.

Not sure the bandaid is helping.

It was really breezy and made spraying paint a challenge as the morning went on. We retraced our steps, check out the cemeteries, had a snack in the car and drove back by way of Danville. The town always has me hungry for soup. The hospital always has great veggie soups but today I wanted to take my parents to Brews n Bytes.

They are coming along with their repairs and had a couple of hot and spicy soups on the menu. My parents got the Potato Jalapeño and I chose a big bowl of the vegan Tomato Thai. I overheard the waitress sharing other soups they feature daily including Saturday being the chef’s choice. Tuesday is Black Bean, Wednesday was the Tomato Thai that I really enjoyed, Thursday is Indian Split Pea and Friday is Chili. It is going to be hard to ever travel though Danville without stopping for soup.

I got home in time to run a very nice 7 miles before 5 PM; it was my first sub 9.5 minute mile in quite a while. That blistering pace (for me) helped work up and appetite for a steamy dish that had been tempting me since it was announced on Monday, Aarvark Kafé was up and running again and I was determined to make time to get a bowl of vegan Chili. Jim picked me up at the end of my trail run and we drove straight to the restaurant.

Aarvark Kafé Vegan Chili (spicy on top, medium on bottom).

I was chilled upon reaching the restaurant (not from carrying Carrot Cake Cupcakes there this time) because of not stopping to changed out of my sweaty running clothes. Hot chili was just what I needed. Jim ordered the spicy and I got the medium but we share some of each. We both preferred the seasoning and added heat of the spicy version and told the chef since he is planning on adding it to the permanent menu. I hadn’t run with my camera so my only photo was taken with my phone. Trust me, the flavors and heartiness of this vegan Chili is much better than my photo can show.

From Centralia’s underground smoldering, Danville’s soup that was too hot for Mom, my burning lungs as I kicked it up around mile 4 of my run and a bowl of spiced vegan chili that was just right – the heat was welcome on this late February day.

About trueindigo

vegan, runner, blogger, mom, model, artist, tarot reader.

2 responses »

  1. I remember seeing a documentary about Centralia – it IS fascinating! What a strange story. I’d love to visit so it’s great to see your photos. Way to go on the run!

    • Thanks! It’s a hard balance to keep my Plantar Fasciitis at bay and still add on the miles /pick up the pace /add in another running day. I have a 10 mile race early April, I don’t plan to do as well as last year but I am thrilled to be running again.


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