Reporting Jay Lloyd
Scenes of Milford, it’s boutique shops, landmark hotel and art community vibe are a part of our nightly TV news viewing. Eric Frein is on trial here after leading police on a 48 day manhunt in the most rugged parts of the Pocono Mountains. After it’s all over, the town will return to normal and visitors will point out the courthouse, while strolling to breakfast on the porch of Hotel Fauchere. They’ll return in the evening for drinks at the hotel’s Bar and dinner at the Tony Delmonico Room amid Hudson Valley art. By day it will be a drive to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, tubing on the river or a visit to one of the landmark area waterfalls. The Newsies will speak of Milford’s role in the Frein case.
Approaching the Harrisburg area on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the towers of Three Mile Island can be seen off to the southwest. I point it out to companions who haven’t heard the story of America’s worst nuclear accident. The entire region was under strongly recommended voluntary evacuation. Reporters wore radiation badges that recorded levels of exposure. Today, recreational activity goes on along the banks of the Susquehanna River. Weekend visitors fish it’s waters and stop at restaurants along the way or take in a minor league ball game at City Island Park, in the river right off downtown Harrisburg. My favorite eatery on the waterfront is a seafood magnet, the Rock Bass Grill on the opposite bank at Wormleysburg. But the 1979 disaster here still looms large in the minds of those who remember the 1979 trauma.
It was the most intense manhunt in Pennsylvania memory. Mass killer Norman Johnston had escaped from Huntingdon prison and headed back to Chester County where he once terrorized communities in three states as part of the notorious Johnston gang. The year was 1999 and Johnston had been locked up for 20 years before getting some inside help to break out. For 20 days police and reporters were fanned out over pristine farmland, before the fugitive was captured. We also found new spots for Sunday drives along with some familiar attractions. The most prominent among them, Longwood Gardens, an amazing botanical gem. Add to that, the Brandywine Battlefield and downtown Kennett Square with its boutique stores, including the unique Phillips Mushroom Shop. But the chatter often turns to the notorious Johnston gang.
Not all stories revolve around tragedy. Some are just plain fun and in this case. a fantasy of sunken treasure. Reporters went to sea, just off Lewes, Delaware to chronicle the 1985 recovery of HMS DeBraak believed to be carrying millions in captured Spanish treasure. But as crane barges raised the mud caked hull, the wreck came apart, artifacts, coins, cannons and the bones of 48 dead crewmen fell back into the sea – a fantasy was forever lost. Today visitors to Lewes can leave on Charter fishing boats from the same dock where reporters departed for the treasure ship coverage. The restaurant where we filed out stories on returning is steps from the dock at Fisherman’s Wharf. Then, stroll the town and chat with locals at the pubs. Ask about the DeBraak and be prepared for the yarns to unfold.
In January of 1996, reporters were driving snow covered country roads between Newtown Square and Media, among large estates and horse farms. We were looking for answers about why John du Pont, the eccentric heir to a chemical corporation fortune shot and killed Olympic champion wrestler Dave Shultz at du Pont’s sprawling Foxcatcher Farm. The trial attracted Newsies and crowds of spectators to the Media Courthouse. Today visitors can drive those same country roads for a peek at lives of the country gentry, then stop at Media for a show at the Media Theater, see the courthouse, dine at the Suburban outpost of Spasso’s Italian Grill, an Iron Hill Brewery or a wide range of local eateries. Shopping and pubs are in the mix. Or play golf and relax at the public Springfield Country Club. If you run into a reporter, he or she will be glad to tell you that du Pont was found guilty, but mentally ill and died in prison.
There are stories galore for show and tell. Create your own News Junkie trail for Sunday drives that combine fascinating true tales with a pleasant day on the road.