Midway we arrived at Pittsburgh, PA and decided to make a detour to visit the tourist mecca known far and wide as the ‘Weather Capital of the World!’
We had succumbed to the beautiful scenery in a movie and wanted to see it for ourselves, only it didn’t quite live up to our expectations.
We were ‘shadow chasing.’
The first time was to the wilds of Vermont. This was pre-cell phone; the gas gauge on our rental car was showing ‘empty’ and we were lost.
Beetlejuice was the movie that landed us in that mess. Filmed in E. Corinth amidst the glorious fall foliage, I had planned to surprise Cheryl by taking her to visit the idyllic town with white steepled church and wooden covered bridge but, by mistake, I had written down the wrong ‘letter’ (I thought we were looking for W. Corinth) and after several failed attempts to find the town in the backwoods, I stopped to ask for directions from the locals.
“You can’t get there from here!” was all they said.
Only later did I discover my mistake.
We had been chasing shadows...
This time, we discovered that, contrary to the movie, there was literally ‘no room (for us) at the inn’ (there are no motels or hotels at our destination) and so we drove on for another 28 miles to find a motel for the night.
The next morning as small white flakes began to float silently down from the sky, we grabbed our luggage and raced back through the freshly falling snow to our destination, Punxsutawney, PA, in hopes of getting a glimpse of the famous weatherman (or weather-groundhog) before the weather (and our journey) went south and our road became impassible.
We found (Punxsutawney) Phil fast asleep in his burrow which could be viewed through a window of the public library. He was clearly not a shadow, but was missing his opportunity to forecast both this ‘dusting’ of snow (as the locals called it) as well as the great Arctic ‘Vortex’ that was beginning to coalesce and move southward from Canada.
While Phil clearly was not a shadow, we found ourselves once again chasing shadows (created by Hollywood ‘movie magic’).
In Groundhog Day, Hollywood movie magic makes it seem like Phil Connors (Bill Murray’s character) strolls from his B&B to the town square to do his TV weather broadcast from Gobbler’s Knob (which, in fact, is several miles outside of town). He would have had quite a long hike with ‘Needle-nose’ Ned Ryerson, the overly-insistent life insurance salesman, yapping at his heels the whole way!
The Magi certainly experienced similar set-backs as they searched for the Baby Jesus, endured the yapping of King Herod and ‘all Jerusalem’ on their way to Bethlehem, and returned home by a ‘different’ way.
We made one last stop in town. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club headquarters and museum houses a well documented historical collection of ‘must-see’ Phil-‘abilia’. The PGC members annually host more than 12,000 visitors (tripling the town’s population) for the furry weatherman’s prediction and Groundhog Day celebration on February 2.
In the future, we will leave shadow chasing to the expert and focus our attention, instead, on the celebration of God’s creation… wherever we may be!
John Degano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.