It was twilight and a thunder storm was rolling in again for the gazillionth time in recent memory when I caught a glimpse of the old sign poles on the side of the road that marked the entrance to a historic but long forgotten part of our area's racing heritage called the Pocono Drag Lodge.
I'd been trying to find the place for a few years, knowing roughly where it should be, but unable to find it among the houses and woods that line Meadow Run Road on the way to Thornhurst. Yet there it was.
I laughed to myself at the irony of finally finding it when I really wasn't looking for it. I was actually taking a shortcut to Wilkes-Barre when I saw it out of the corner of my eye. I had missed it dozens of times before.
I swung back and parked in front of a big flowerbox and looked down what appeared to be an old logging road into nowhere, but filled with curiosity and a severe case of cabin fever from all the recent rain, I decided to trudge down the muddy gravel road to see what I could see.
Something in the back of my mind told me this might not be one of my brighter ideas. The "No Trespassing" signs that threatened something just short of dismemberment may have had something to do with it, but hey, where I grew up in my neighborhood in northern New Jersey, welcome mats say roughly the same thing. Besides surely the cops would understand that this was an archeological expedition, right?
I mean to stand in a place where some of our most famous drag racers and cars our country has known have raced was something I couldn't resist, yet the sixties were a long time ago. I kept my eyes peeled for anything that looked remotely like a track and large dogs.
The road seemed to go on forever and disappeared into the brush and trees ahead of me as it meandered deeper and deeper into the woods. There were little signs here and there of something having been there long ago, but it could have been anything and after about 10 minutes of walking, I came upon what looked to be a small shanty, maybe a ticket booth, that had collapsed under the weight of it's roof and lay there in a heap of timber and shingle.
I kept walking, but in spite of the little building, I wasn't sure that I was in the right place. In fact my doubts kept growing as the weather closed in and decided to put a limit on my walk before I ended up sending in a column on trekking down the Trans-Canada highway.
As I reached a small rise around a curve in the road my eye caught sight of what looked like a metal bracket on an old listing phone pole. I followed the wires to the next pole and there perched in a bracket were a set of battered public address speakers like right out of the movie M*A*S*H.
This had to be it, I thought and then it happened.
As I stood there looking at all the trees and bushes, my eyes caught sight of the end of a plank, with another just below and in front of it, and another above and behind it. The old wooden bleachers slowly took shape and appeared ghost-like, choked with brush and saplings, but bleachers none the less. I took a few more steps and suddenly there it was. A broad ribbon of pavement extending nearly half a mile from staging area to the end of the strip as it went up hill onto an outcropping of shale.
The only protective barriers on the track are loose piles of tires heaped in front of wherever there had been bleachers.
The line down the middle of the track is still there and as I walked towards the staging area the old starter's tower loomed out from behind a tree.
Covered in graffiti it still looked magnificent and you could feel that it was something special with its white and black alternating stripes and top floor windows that slanted out like an airport control tower.
As I stood there at what had been the starting line looking at all this, the thunder rolled, one of those long deep rumbles. I felt my heart pounding as I thought of guys like Richard Petty driving his 64 Barracuda there and drag racing legends like Arnie*the Farmer* Beswick, Sox & Martin, Red Lang, and Butch Leal tearing down the weed covered track with a deafening roar.
This place had to be something in its day. And I now understand why so many old timers talked so fondly of the Pocono Drag Lodge. Goose bumps man, goose bumps. The thunder rolled again and it was time to head back.
As I walked to the car I wondered just what it would take to get the old place up and running again. The DEP wants the old tires out of there and other schemes to turn it into something useful have all failed.
I just couldn't help but wonder what life would be like if by some miracle the old place could be resurrected. I can see kids participating in the NHRA youth programs like they have in California or Lee Malkemes little Georgia Shaker 64 Thunderbolt going up against Arnie Beswick's Tameless Tiger in a nostalgia match race like the ones running all over the rest of the country.
I could even see some sort of school being created to give folks a chance to drive a nostalgic drag car, or at least catch a ride in one. Maybe somewhere there is a racing angle that could pull that one off.
Until then, the Drag Lodge comes alive only when the Thunder Rolls.
Hill on shut down area.
The old weigh in scale.
The pit area.
Tower view of the staging lanes.
Reprinted by permission.
Special Thanks to my good friends.
Jim Amos who sent me the article.
Patrick "Skip" Race supplied the photos.