My Real-Life Twilight Zone Episode
When I left the laser tag arena in northern NJ following the last Tag 4 A Cause challenge, I had plans to drive west and stay in a hotel outside of Scranton, PA as a mid-point on my way home. However, I never could have imagined the real-life Twilight Zone adventure that awaited me for the remainder of this night!
Let me set the stage for what happened after I left the laser tag for the night…
Around 11:00 pm it is dark and I am following my GPS, driving through pitch black back roads, essentially in the middle of nowhere. I turn onto a dirt road and am halfway down when all of a sudden my phone goes black. Uh-oh.
My phone has been plugged in on the charger this whole ride, so I can’t imagine how it is out of juice, but after a couple of attempts to try different adapters I determine that the charging cable has gone bad without my knowing and while I thought the phone was charging, it had actually been draining this whole time. Worse yet, while I carry a pouch of about a dozen different adapters with me when I fly anywhere, this was just a day trip on my car so I did not have my back-up chargers with me. This could go south very quickly.
I gathered my wits and decided to drive onward simply on instinct, figuring I’d find my way to civilization eventually (I hoped), so I got to the end of the dirt road and had my first decision to make, like I’m in a game of Zork…go right or go left?
I turned left. I got a fair way down this route before I started seeing signs that I was entering the Delaware State Forest. How is that even possible?! I must be somewhere in northern Pennsylvania! Homework after the fact tells me it is named for the Delaware River. I kept going. I passed a couple of residential camps that were all dark. The deeper I drive into the forest, the more I am thinking this is a big mistake. I am praying for help when, like a beacon, I see a light shining down on a sign in front of a little tavern bar in the middle of the woods.
Isn’t this how a Twilight Zone episode begins? However, I am grateful that the bar is open so I go inside. It turns out this little bar was the answer to my prayers as I found myself spending an unexpected and incredibly unusual night with the locals at Old Ranger's Inn in Promised Land, PA. These were truly the NICEST people I could have encountered in my precarious situation that night. My thanks to owners Ted and Anna, their daughter (the barkeeper) Francesca, Randy (the friendly guy at the end of the bar) and the other locals who welcomed me and let me charge up my phone while I visited with them.
However, my visit was definitely filled with unusual things contributing to making this a night that I will never forget! I heard stories about an unusually shaped baguette roll, joined the cheering as one guy got chocolate cake smashed in his face (and kept right on playing pool) and the jukebox playing Barbara Ann, as this was truly like a rustic neighborhood bar that must be the same today as it was years ago. It looked and felt like a whole different place in time, right down to being disconnected from the world, not just because of my phone’s battery, but also because of the lack of signal.
As the clock approached midnight I knew I needed to call the hotel to make sure I would still have a room whenever I got there. My phone had a partial charge, so I was given this instruction... “Go out the door, turn left and stand next to the big rock.” That’s where I could get a call to go through. Standing alone (next to the big rock) I had an eerie feeling that there were probably wild animals nearby. This is foreshadowing…
I went back inside to let my phone finish charging. When I walked through the door Francesca shouted “she came back!!!” She joked about whether I was going to run away like I had escaped from Deliverance. This is funny only because these people were so wonderful and friendly. I was incredibly lucky to land here…and also quite lucky to not run into any wild creatures by the big rock! Here’s why I say that.
I didn’t think to get any photos with the people (which I am kicking myself for now, but remember I didn’t have my phone in hand like usual), however I DO have a photo of their bear. Yes…their bear.
Ted had lots of stories about this bear who was a frequent visitor (they think the bear has passed away because he hasn’t been around in awhile). They had photos and tales of this local bear who was so comfortable around people that they developed a bond with it. Stressing that “they don’t feed it” they also explained how this bear figured out how to acquire food and was rather social. I saw multiple photos and videos with the bear walking around (including right by the big rock!) and appearing to smile for selfies with various patrons of the bar. I even heard about a day when the bar was quieter than normal and Ted understood why when he found the bear sitting on the porch “right out there” (he said while pointing to the window). I asked if it was likely that I’d run into any of the bear’s friends on my way home and he conceded it was quite possible. Welp…
On that note (and with my phone fully charged) I thanked them for their hospitality and headed out again with working GPS to guide me to my hotel. I am so appreciative that I was guided to Old Ranger's Inn in Promised Land, PA. It was a post-laser tag experience I will never forget and truly felt like a Twilight Zone story…like, did that really happen?!
The next morning I woke up in Wilkes-Barre and headed west towards another laser tag arena. On the route I passed a sign for Reptiland. Well, I couldn’t resist. So I took a tour and started my day out hugging an alligator!
Wild animals don’t scare me in the light of day, lol. What can I say…this was one WILD weekend!
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