How I learned not to stop at scenic overlooks

You may recall one of my past blogs about the time we almost got lost at sea. This current post will detail another snapshot of that wondrous cross-country trek to the Atlantic Ocean and back.

The summer in between 5th and 6th grade, my parents decided that we were going to take a Family Vacation. We would marvel at the wonder of Niagara Falls, fend off the advances of the homeless of New York City, and even splash in the ocean tides of the Atlantic.

Stepdad, cousin, brother, me. Contemporaneous with the episode described here.

Most of the time we spent on the road was relatively unremarkable. My parents had been wise enough to understand that giving us Gameboys would essentially turn us into inanimate objects for the duration of the trip. Reveling in their own cleverness, my parents neglected to realize that they had nothing to distract themselves from the tedious repetition of asphalt and farmland.

I focused on the tiny screen in my hands and laughed scornfully at the idiocy of my opponent. A Weedle, honestly? Shelby chattered softly to herself as she gazed mindlessly out the window; an endless stream of quiet, unintelligible babble flowing forth from the far back of the van. The steady hum of the tires on the road lulled my brother to sleep, his yellow Gameboy slipping out of his hand.

A skin of perspiration developed on my stepdad’s forehead as the monotony of the journey began to fray at his nerves. His blue eyes were shot through with threads of scarlet, pained by the strain of endless concentration. We had traveled two days already and were plodding slowly through the verdant hills of Pennsylvania. Suddenly, a metallic glint caught his eye.  “SCENIC OVERLOOK 5 MILES,” the sign proclaimed. My stepdad gave an almost imperceptible sigh of relief.

“Honey, we’re going to take a little detour and stop at this overlook.”

My mother glanced up from the map, “That sounds like a good plan. The kids need to get out of the car for a while.”

We exited the highway and began cruising down a winding two lane road, following the signs which boasted the overlook was nearby. “ASTOUNDING! STUPEFYING! YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES!” We encountered very little traffic on the street, not uncommon for traveling through rural Pennsylvania.

Eventually we arrived at the scenic overlook. We were surprised to find a large number of cars parked in the dirt lot. Despite the abundance of vehicles, we didn’t see anyone else occupying the terrace which contained the beautiful view we had driven out of our way for.

It really was quite scenic. The rolling hills of Pennsylvania were topped with abundant forests of emerald and jade. A golden eagle soared through the skies in search of prey. The clouds overhead served as adornment for the view beyond. Miles and miles of unadulterated forested hills greeted our eyes.

My parents took pictures while I ran about with my brother and sister, generally causing a small ruckus. I noted a bra entangled in the brush below the terrace, and I yelled gleefully at this oddity. During this time, several more cars entered the overlook, all containing one or two young males.

The men ignored the view, intent on some other purpose in the woods behind. My parents remained relatively unaware, as did I. They decided to take several pictures of us children posed on a large boulder near the edge of the woods. As we approached the tree line, my parents began to mark the disappearance of the men into the forest.

My stepdad decided to investigate. As quiet as any woodsman, he disappeared into the foliage. I played with rigid, green seed pods I found in the gravel while my mother continued to take pictures and attempted to pose my siblings. My stepdad returned to us swiftly and as quietly as he had left, a somber look on his sun-peaked visage.

He snatched my sister from the boulder and told us that it was time we hit the road again. Happy to get back to my Gameboy, it was many years before I thought about the incident. Upon reflection, my stepdad validated my assumption, and told me that he had stumbled across a large group of men engaging in a very frenzied group sexual encounter.

And that clarification made me realize that we had never stopped at another scenic overlook again for the rest of that trip or on any other trip.

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