My Solo Weekend at a Cabin in Pennsylvania

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

One of my goals for the new year was to book a solo trip someplace. While I'd still like to take a week-long solo vacation - like, someplace warm, or exciting, or on my to-visit list, or all three - I settled, in January, for a weekend-long solo trip that I designed as a writing retreat. It also turned into a bit of a reading retreat, a budgeting retreat, & a trying-to-watch-Top-Chef-on-bad-wifi retreat, among other things, but writing was my chief goal, & write I did.

To find a place to stay, I did a search for cabins on AirBnB & narrowed it down to places within a two-hour drive of Cleveland. I looked into spots near Columbus, Toledo, & Detroit before ultimately settling on No. 8 Schoolhouse, a four-bed tiny house just outside New Wilmington, PA. It's styled like a schoolhouse, although, to my knowledge, it was never an actual schoolhouse - but hey, seemed cool enough for me.

No. 8 Schoolhouse is attached to another AirBnB rental, Bridge House, which is a small cabin located inside a converted covered bridge! Longtime readers may recall my obsession with abiding love of covered bridges, & of course, I wish I'd realized this upon booking - but staying in a faux schoolhouse was the next best thing, & I did at least get to see the covered bridge cabin. I'd love to go back to stay in it.

See it there on the left? A creek runs beneath it. Real covered bridge, guys.

The week before my trip, I fell on the ice & badly injured my right knee so badly that I spent a couple of days on crutches. With snow falling as I hit the road, I worried I might have trouble hobbling around on my own in PA. Luckily, the roads were clear, the driveway shoveled, & my trusty Sorel boots didn't fail me. Because I didn't do much all weekend, I actually got to rest my knee quite a bit.

New Wilmington is just a 90-minute drive from the CLE, & most of the trip is a straight shot down the turnpike. No. 8 Schoolhouse is located on PA-208, a main highway that runs through a few small towns, so although the cabin feels secluded, it's actually very close to civilization, including a BP, a Rite Aid, a coffee shop, a brewery, & a few restaurants & bars.

The layout of the cabin was really interesting: The first floor featured a large combined bedroom/living room space, heated by an electric fireplace, with a small kitchen, pantry, & bathroom just off the back. Up a few stairs was a mezzanine-level landing with a large, wooden desk & a lamp - then up the stairs was the second floor, which included two twin beds & a large closet. There was a Harry Potter-style "room" beneath the stairs, just tall enough to sit up in, with a full-sized mattress on the floor for cozy, glamping-style sleeping quarters.

None of the windows had curtains, which felt somewhat alarming until I realized that the cabin was enclosed by fencing around the front & a creek & large hill out back. Someone would have to try really hard to look through the windows, & it was so quiet out there that I probably would've heard them crashing around through the snow & trees. There was also a colorful treehouse out back, plus a lovely sitting space that I couldn't enjoy, given the weather.

The best part, though, was a small, open-air chapel located on the rental grounds. It's open to the public, but it'd be hard to find or know about unless you were actually staying. Yeah, yeah, I'm Jewish, & yes, I felt more than a little uncomfortable, at first, walking into a place so, well, Jesusy. Upon entering, though, I felt completely at peace. It's such a cool space, so serene & still, & it's filled with tchotchkes & crosses & knick-knacks & photos & messages of love, peace, & goodwill. It was especially beautiful in the snow, with the creek rushing out back & hoofbeats out front.

Oh, right, the horses. I haven't mentioned that yet. New Wilmington is a heavily Amish area. To my delight, I woke up Saturday morning to the sound of a horse & buggy clip-clopping down the street outside the cabin! Many more passed throughout the day.

I even got up close(ish) to a horse who was tied up in a "horses only" parking spot behind the Rite Aid, & I spotted quite a few Amish folks in the downtown area. There was even a guide to local Amish businesses available in the cabin - none of them open Sundays, of course.

I saw the horse & buggy - & that cool mural - behind Mugsie's, coffee shop less than a mile away where I spent much of Saturday afternoon. It would've been a nice walk, but because of my knee & the falling snow, I drove instead. I ordered a breakfast sandwich & a cinnamon soy latte, both delicious, & settled in for some writing.

At some point, I started chatting with the man next to me, also hunched over a laptop. He was a local Presbyterian pastor, married to another local Presbyterian pastor, & he was one of the more interesting people I've met in a long time. We talked for nearly an hour, then exchanged emails; I told him Mike & I would love to take them to dinner next time they make it out to Cleveland.

I spent the rest of my time in the cabin, reading, writing, napping, & trying without much success to watch TV on my iPad throughout. I brought food with me, mostly charcuterie items, plus an oven pizza for Saturday night - & a six-pack of Dortmunder, of course.

I did a lot of writing, of course, though not as much as I'd hoped, & on completely different topics than I'd planned. I wanted to write a few essays for a book I've long been considering, but, well... I didn't write a single one of those. I did, however, write a few blog posts, two essays to submit elsewhere, & an application for Amtrak's #AmtrakTakeMeThere social media "residency." Fingers crossed for that one!

By the end of the weekend, I missed home but could've stayed in semi-seclusion like that for a few more days, quite honestly. I'm already planning when & how I can get back to No. 8 Schoolhouse - maybe the covered bridge cabin! - again very soon. And, uh, next time I swear I'll do some actual writing.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful getaway. Seriously, so cozy and sweet and my goodness, what I wouldn't give for a good solo trip right now, ha.


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