24 Hours In The Red Rose City (USA Day 11)
Having arrived in Lancaster via its northern suburbs yesterday and burrowed away in our bedsit with microwave pasta and an episode of RuPaul, we awoke for our rest day with low expectations of the town’s offerings. The little we’d seen, we assumed, was the totality of it. With podcasts and videos to edit (both should be online now, by the way – scroll about on ivanbrett.com to find them), routes to plan and laundry to do, I wasn’t expecting to have much to write by the end of the day. Of course, if there’s one thing that this trip has been so far, it’s surprising.
We dragged our sleepy legs a whole block to the Neptune Diner, a cliché of a restaurant that didn’t realise that’s what it was. With 60s chic chrome cladding and leather booths, uniformed coffee-wielding waitresses and all-day breakfasts, the only thing it lacked was a jukebox playing The Beach Boys. We ordered our breakfasts: combinations of eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, crab cakes, biscuits and gravy washed down with orange juice and bottomless coffee. Enough food to last us well into the evening, living up to its ‘all-day’ claims.
In walked Charles, a regular, who waited patiently for his usual corner table and digested the morning’s paper, in a sense. Buddy (yes, Buddy) came for takeout. His daughter was to graduate today and he needed to shave, apparently, and even though he had to dash he still made time to flirt with the blonde-haired waitress. Local cable blared on the elevated TV: a man in a suit with thinning hair, standing in front of his used car lot. The cars were ‘good to go’, he told us.
We made our bottomless coffees last, wedged in our booth, getting on with all those bits and pieces, then wandered into the presumably faceless downtown area, past a cute comic book shop and a surprisingly trendy art shop and a working 19th century letterpress museum and…we were gobsmacked. This town was a treasure trove! I was mesmerised by a thrift store selling old photo booth cabinet cards, stacks of haunting faces perfectly preserved long after their bodies had gone. With a game brewing in my mind, I bought sixteen. Watch this space.
Wandering into a cosy independent café with good wi-fi and a table filled with men playing Yu-Gi-Oh, we consigned ourselves to finishing the admin, busying away the rest of the day in the increasing cold of an over-effective air conditioning unit. Eventually we emerged, bleary-eyed and shivering, wired from refillable coffee and no solids since breakfast, to a Pennsylvania sunset complete with massive passing biker gang (‘Prospects’, their jackets read) and a booming little-league baseball stadium two blocks up. Lancaster, a picture of small-town America, has treated us well. I’ll be sad to leave.