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On the road again: windmills and history


We took Stella to Pittsburgh this week for the start of college at University of Pittsburgh. On the way home we stopped in Carlisle to see Max who’s starting law school at the Penn State/Dickinson. The trip was a two-day whirlwind and here are just a few pix and some comments.

Windmills of your dreams

Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, seen from the car, traveling east on the PA Turnpike around Somerset.
Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, seen from the car, traveling east on the PA Turnpike around Somerset.

They appear to be silent as you pass them on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Somerset but you know the windmills–turbines in contemporary energy parlance– must make a racket. How could they not? They’re enormous, scarily so, and there appear to be more than a half-dozen of them. These machines for generating energy have always fascinated, from the cute Dutch windmills of European landscape paintings to these tall improbable robots in “farm” configurations. We may have a romance with Dutch windmills but these contemporary machines are too spare and weird to get all dreamy about. Partly it’s the size of them which is so monstrously out of scale with everything around them. And then there’s the quantity and seriality of them–a group of turbines, all the same, all moving in the same manner, evokes a kind of army. You have to assume they’re benevolent, otherwise they evoke the rhythms of hell–neverending cycles of motion. Cute they ain’t and yet fascinating? Yes.

This group of turbines is the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm and it’s built and owned by a Spanish energy company, Gamesa. The company, which started making and building wind turbines beginning in 1994 has wind farms in Pennsylvania, Texas and Oklahoma. This is not government in action–it’s private enterprise seizing on a really good idea (sustainable energy) and running with it. The Allegheny Ridge Farm is a work in progress and will include some 40 turbines in all when it’s complete.

Gamesa makes the turbine blades, towers and other parts at a factory in Cambria County and will build more technology factories in Bucks County. And, not only are the windmills helping the local economy by creating jobs, but, according to a story in the local newspaper, the Tribune-Democrat the wind farms are becoming big tourist attractions!

History among us

First Presbyterian Church. Washington worshipped there. Citizens voted there to support the revolutionary war.

Carlisle, PA, was founded in 1751. It’s a revolutionary war town where Washington hung out while passing through presumably raising funds and good will for his army. In fact there seem to be as many historic markers in downtown Carlisle as there are in Philadelphia’s Society Hill!

Evidence of the shelling of Carlisle by Confederate soldiers on July 1, 1863. This column is part of the courthouse in carlisle. The battle of Carlisle was the northernmost battle of the Civil War.

The Carlisle Barracks, a military outpost dating from the 1750s, is there, and right now it’s the home of the Army War College. During the Civil War Carlisle Barracks served as a store house for supplies for Union soldiers and a place for soldiers to train before moving out with their units.

The Shelling of Carlisle
Historical information outside the courthouse about the shelling of the town.

On June 27, 1863, Confederate army cavalry troops under Brig. Gen. Albert Jenkins seized the Barracks and demanded food from the town for its men and animals. Another Confederate cavalry division under Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart came to Carlisle from the East and demanded food for his troops. He later shelled the town and burned the barracks when the federal troops failed to surrender. The Confederate soldiers were ordered to Gettysburg where that battle was underway.

The Army War College, for training gifted soldiers for high command, was established in 1903 in Washington D.C. and moved to Carlisle in 1951.

Today, Carlisle is like most college towns that combine the old and new. It’s got its historical markers and buildings. And it’s full of ethnic restaurants (Thai, Indian, Mexican), bars and cafes that serve a mean veggie burger.

Javid's ...and hookah house
Javid’s Indian Grill and Hookah Lounge, one of several ethnic restaurants in Carlisle.

In our brief visit which included a walk around the town center we discovered the major impediment to Carlisle’s becoming a big tourist destination–noise. This little town has a major highway running through its main street and the sound of big rig trucks and other massive trucks was jarring and a complete spoiler. The other major arteries through town were no better being full of noisy SUVs and smaller trucks and cars racing and revving their engines at the lights. It’s a shame because the town is sweet and yet the noise is a complete turn off.

Carlisle car culture. This car was parked outside the Thai restaurant we ate at.

Thanks for voting us runners up
Runner Up Best Coffeehouse. There were several emporiums touting themselves as “we’re number two!!” It was funny.

Anyway, we’re back now. And I have more photos at flickr.