Now that you’ve read the book, maybe you’ll be interested in some of the real places behind the fantasy…
I put Alex up at The Mount Vernon Inn…though, of course, I changed the name and…um…the location is actually quite wrong. Location-wise, Alex would actually be staying at the Hampton Inn, which is across from the Uniontown Mall. But I like the feel of the Mount Vernon Inn, and I used to look at it, wonderingly, all the time as I went past. It’s undergone renovations, but before then it looked exactly like the type of place a down on his luck young man would stay at. When I wrote the book, there were actually no hotels around the Mall, and now there are tons.
They have a website for it with a picture of the inn.
The Uniontown Mall and Walmart:
The Mall itself has changed a great deal since the book was written…it no longer has a food court, but it still has a pizza place where people can sit and eat. (It’s actually pretty good, too!) It also still has the movie theater and book store (Now no longer Walden’s, it’s Border’s Express.) where Alex went to kill time, and ended up running into someone he’d rather have not…
Here’s an interesting little zoomy map from the air of the mall. This is a .pdf with a picture and a mall map. The picture is interesting to me because it shows how bloody built up the area is. And that’s about as close to a picture as I can get.
Walmart was…well, really, is the only game in town. If I’d written the book more recently, Libby would have been all over the Target. She’s not a huge fan of the place, but it’s the only location where a woman who is incredibly paranoid and wants to buy all sorts of stuff to survive the winter without traveling to more than one store can go.
Along the way to Uniontown, Libby drives Alex down Route 40. One of the things he would have seen is Searight’s Tollhouse. It’s an adorable little brick building that I’ve loved for ages. This webpage has a nice little blurb about it. It was built in 1835. It’s so odd to think that there used to be places like this where people would pull up and pay a toll. I wondered what made them stop? Methinks some research is in order…
Route 40 is one of those roads that seems to run through my veins. Being so close to it, I used to attend all sorts of National Pike Day festivals, sometimes as a helper to my blacksmith father, sometimes just going as a bargain hunter, poking through books and glass with my mother. (My two flea market vices are books and pretty colored glass.) For vast stretches 40 is beautiful, especially in the mountains where the views can be breathtaking, but there are many places, like I mention in my book, where 40 can’t seem to decide whether it is a place for the poor or for the rich.
Libby would have also definitely pointed out Nemacolin Castle. I worked a Pike Days here, too. Very nifty place…I think we did fairly well on sales, especially of horseshoe puzzles. I remember three things quite clearly: One, costume envy of some of the dummies we saw during the tour, two, impressing Very Cute Boy with my flashy, showman like ability to undo the horseshoe puzzle, and three, my grandfather and I using Sprite to clean off black paint over spray from our skin. This nifty site has color pictures…including a possible ghost picture.
Cooper’s Rock becomes a very important place in the book, as it is where one of the greatest monsters of all sleeps. It’s one of my favorite places to go, walking out onto that huge, slightly tilted plate of rock, walking down to the fence line and looking down a deep, deep gorge…it’s slightly thrilling and very breath taking. There are some lovely pictures here, taken at about the time of year Alex and Libby would have visited.
While I was writing Blue Moon, my parents would take long drives to a certain hobby shop that had the best selection of HO trains for my father. We often passed through Mather, a coal patch town whose main historical significance is in that it was the site of a huge coal mining disaster. According to this page, there was an explosion in 1928, one that took the lives of 195 miners. Five years ago, it was the site of several huge slag piles, huge man made mountains of junk pulled out of the earth with the coal. The first picture here is not of Mather’s slag heap, but looks really close to what I saw, when I decided to make magic out of dross.