Keystone to Nowhere

I couldn’t be happier to arrive in Keystone, a small family-owned truck stop and diner nestled in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. I’ve had this spot programmed into my GPS, since there was nowhere else to get fuel until I arrived in Pittsburgh.

I pulled into a dirt lot riddled with potholes and I was relieved that I had beat the looming storm front. Any bit of decent downpour, and this lot turns into a mini Allegheny.

I knew I had gone back in time. The fuel pumps didn’t accept credit cards – they were as old and antiquated as the Freightliner cabover humming in the parking lot.

When I tried to enter the main building, the sign read.

Open 24 Hours Monday – Thursday.

Closed 10pm Friday.

Closed Sat at 3pm.

Open Sun at 4pm.

Wow, I would hate to be the trucker who arrived Sat evening. Thankfully it was already 1pm, so I only had to wait a couple hours.

That sucked since my shipper was expecting me to deliver early afternoon. I text to him the broker kept them posted and content.

But why be opened 24 hrs during the week but close for 24 hrs on the weekend? Either the staff turned into party animals on Sat nights and left Sunday for church, family and football, or it was just a ploy to get truckers to visit the diner to try their homegrown recipes.

No worries, it wasn’t like I could catch an uber to the nearest starbucks.

So I entered and was surprised to see the dining room filled with a good mix of socially-distanced families – tables busting with kids with grandparents in tow. Many who looked like they just came from church.

I know Loretto is a small town, 80 miles from the Steel City. At least everyone were Nittany Lion fans here.

I sat down next to a buck with antlers that pierced the ceiling.

“Wow, that’s a good looking white tail – who shot it?”

“Ryan the owner did,” replied a waitress who was busy wrapping silverware. “With his dad, Mike.”

“Impressive how ’bout the buffalo? I know they can charge.”

“Oh, that’s from the ranch. They got quite a frontier”

“Really, do you serve bison burgers here?”

“Unfortunately not, our menu has really scaled down due to the virus.”

I gave the paper menu a once over front and back. Nothing caught my eye but liver & onions always seems to get my attention.

And I definitely got more than I bargained for. The cole slaw was a bit too vinegary and watery.

The liver and onions though definitely hit the bullseye. I like this dish although some claim it tastes metallic. Over the years, I’ve grown to like it and Keystone did me right.

After my meal which took me forever to consume, I was ready to return to the pumps.

“Boy am I glad to see you.”

“Well, I’m not glad to be here at all.”

The manager looked like he was just rustled from his sleep.

“Yeah, didn’t know you didn’t open until 4 on Sundays. Is that due to COVID.”

“Shoot, it’s been that way since I’ve worked here, and I’ve been here for 20 plus years.”

“Ok, would be nice if you guys updated the times on Google.”

He looked at me like I just spoke Russian. “How much do you want?”

“How much do I need to buy to get a free shower.”

“60 Gallons.”

“Well then, 60 to the penny.”

I got my fuel, my shower, and I was ready to hit the road to Pittsburgh.

And I beat the rain before the lot turned into a boggy ground.

After an 850 mile journey from Lincoln, Maine, up and down rolling hills I was sure glad to arrive in Dravorsburg.

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