Thursday, September 17, 2015

Scenic Drive, Oil County Tour

BOLIVAR: On a blue-skied September day, my husband Rick and I gathered snacks and took off for “Oil Country,” one of the 6 Allegany County driving tours.
                We chose to start as suggested on Route 417 in Bolivar, traveling clockwise on the route. This meant that we drove from our home in Wellsville through Allentown where we stopped at the Allentown Antique Mart.
                It’s not necessary to name names or admit guilt but someone had the unhappy experience of breaking the lid on Grandma Bonnie’s glass candy dish so we’ve been checking flea markets and the like on the off chance that some unhappy soul broke a similar dish and set the lid out for sale.
                We found a basket full off surviving lids for candy dishes and casseroles but none were right. Rick found a vintage vise that we hope will be an appreciated Christmas gift and I found some odd jewelry pieces that will work into earrings.
                The Allentown Antique Mart is open Monday through Friday, 10-4.  Your company there would be appreciated and you might find a treasure for yourself. The entire second floor is now on sale for 50% off.
Don and Pauline King with their work.
                Then, being in Allentown, we took a second detour to the home of Don and Pauline King. Don, a wood turner, is a member of the Allegany Artisans but we had never seen his studio. When I called from the Antique Mart, they were both home.
                We thought we would find them in minutes but followed the directions from our smart phone so went an extra few miles. Don and Pauline live on White Hill Road #1, an address that baffles navigation systems (Don has stories!) so if you go to see Don’s turnings during the Studio Tour on October 17 & 18, just turn on White Hill Road #1, across from the old school, and go up the hill until you see Don’s signs on the left.   
                We were lucky to find them since they often spend afternoons on a four-wheeler trundling the over 10 miles of dirt roads on their wooded hill. They search for burls and downed trees that Don turns into bowls.
                Don started by chiseling bowls. His first bowl is a sturdy oval on the kitchen counter. The second is a large dough bowl. Both of these were laboriously chiseled one hammer blow at a time. While both are beautiful pieces, Don’s family invested in a lathe for him so his bowls are now round.
                Pauline takes what she calls Don’s wood scraps and paints them, often with roosters or with fruit or flowers.  Pauline is an interior designer who was working with Don’s daughter who worked a little match/making magic between them.  She is also a trombonist and we have played together in summer bands over the years. Music and art often mix.
                We tore ourselves away since we hadn’t yet gotten to our official starting point an hour after leaving home. Our task was to look at Allegany County rather than just speed past it so, in that sense, we were always on track.
                We arrived in Bolivar and turned left to take the tour. Fittingly, the Pioneer Oil Museum on Main Street is at the start of Oil Country. The museum was closed for us but will be open to all on October 3 & 4 (10am to 3 pm) as part of the Allegany County Museum Trail. Eighteen museums and historical societies around Allegany County are scheduled to participate in the event. Many are free.
                We passed a hearing aid shop, a bridal store, the curiously named Horse Run Road and the busy Bolivar Country Club. Directions in the brochure are to turn at the end of the Country Club onto County Route 5 but don’t be tricked. The first right turn is County Route 5C, marked with 2 easy-to-read signs. The second road, with a sign not visible until the turn is made, is County Route 5. Every turn we made revealed locations with fire wood for sale.
Snowmobile Trail at scenic overlook
                After the turn is a small park with swings, charcoal grills and a picnic table in a small pavilion. On the other side of the street is a private home with a gazebo graced with a telephone booth and rail road crossing sign.
Overlook on Daggett Hollow
                The trail map indicates a Scenic Overlook on Daggett Hollow Road. We stopped at a large, mowed parking area with a tall, white wooden cross and hiked down two trails. It might have been an overlook when the trees were small but it isn’t now.
                The trail near the cross is posted as private property but also has round snowmobile trail markers. Snowmobilers also have a blue arrow pointing left where another trail goes into the woods but it seems all woods, not overlook.
A model of Main Street inside
Sloppy Joe's Deli
                We brushed off mud and seeds and got back in the car to get to Sloppy Joe’s Deli, soon to celebrate its 24th birthday.  Sloppy Joe’s hosts live music on Tuesday nights and every morning there are folks who have crossed from customers to friends to family, all drinking coffee and talking.
Barn Sale
                The barn out back is open daily. If you need a pink accordion, this is your place. There is also a beautiful, little English sewing machine from about 1890 and a Larkin desk in addition to the more ordinary glass, china, books, decorations, and what-nots. Again, their candy dish lids weren’t a fit for us.  
                We missed the right turn onto Route 1 but came back to it shortly and then did a detour to Mt. Irenaeus, part of the St. Bonaventure ministry. Mt. Irenaeus is a Contemplative Center not open to the public except for their Sunday morning service.
                Roman Catholic Mass is held in the Chapel at 11 am and followed by a dish to pass brunch. Attendance can be large in spring and summer but sparse in winter though Brother Lewis said that the Town of Wirt is super about keeping the unpaved road plowed for them.
Mt Irenaeus Lodge
                Brother Lewis sat with us on the porch of the main house and we talked about the Pope’s Philadelphia visit, the perils of gardening among voracious deer and the enormous appetites of the St. Bonaventure Women’s Swim Team.
                Back on Route 1, we found “Times Square” and “Fifth Avenue” in the town of Wirt and then returned to our starting point in Bolivar after 3 hours and 42 miles, an extra 20 miles of exploration.

                The Allegany County Office of Tourism and Culture offers the Scenic Drives brochure in addition to those focused on History, Hunting and Fishing, Outdoor Sports, Artisans, and Events. All of these can help you appreciate hidden pockets of Allegany County. Call 1-800-836-1869 or find information at

Our map - 1 is where we walked around a bit, 2 is
the side trip to Mt. Ireneaus and 3 is our wrong

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