Sunday, September 11, 2016

Get Away to Rainbow Mountain

If you're like most Philadelphians, you're eager for the dog days of summer to end. I've lived in Center City longer than any address, so I should be use to the heat, the humidity, and "that Philly smell." But I'm not. Like the farm I grew up on, "that Philly smell" is akin to a corporate chicken farm, and a smell you never grow accustomed to. It's just gross. But luckily for Philadelphians, we're a densely packed reeking city an hour or two away from beautiful beaches and untouched mountains. 

For Labor Day weekend I opted against the crowded shore towns and headed north to the Poconos. The Poconos - a word that can't be uttered without a rural Pennsylvania accent - is perhaps as unique as Philadelphia in that it is just as untapped. You might not find the gingham-clad socialites you'll meet in the Adirondacks or their signature chair, but you'll find the same wilderness, vistas, and lakes at a fraction of the price.

I chose Rainbow Mountain, an LGBT report equidistant from Philadelphia and New York, and a throwback to the retreats that inspired the movie Dirty Dancing. Gay, straight, trans, or anything in between, you need to experience Rainbow Mountain near Stroudsburg, PA because it is a unique something that might not exist for much longer. 

Today's mountain resorts are five star. They allow you to get away from it all while keeping up with your spa treatments and cross fit classes. Rainbow Mountain is not that. Rainbow Mountain, with its musty cottages and dorm rooms, is an untouched enclave that harkens back to an era when the middle class roughed it in basic cabins. 

Today, "roughing it" is one of two things: either in the woods under a tent Bear Grylls style, or in a "cabin" worth more than your house. Either way, it's an Instagram-op that has more to do with your bed than the nature around you.

Rainbow Mountain isn't about the accommodations, it's about the experience. It's a decent mattress and a good night's sleep that comes with a swimming pool and an old fashioned barn dance. To locals, Rainbow Mountain is the answer to a gay bar, and a pretty fabulous one at that.  To visitors, it truly is a comfy place to get away from it all. It's a short drive to the Delaware Water Gap, kayaking, bike trails, and frigid swimming holes. Stroudsburg is a charming town, surprisingly hip, with great shopping and restaurants. 

My only complaint is that it's a bit too close to New York, and New Yorkers. At about ten times the population of Philadelphia, New Yorkers are like locusts that ruin everything within a three hour path of their wake. Some trails are littered with Dunkin' Donuts cups and tagged with graffiti. Other nature trails house relics of the Industrial Revolution, unique in their own right, but not places of natural solace. In the resort itself, you'll be hard pressed to find a Pennsylvanian that isn't local to the county, but rather Manhattanites - or worse, Brooklynites - eager to namedrop their address. 

Still, Rainbow Mountain's cozy cottages, large swimming pool, its lake, and shows are well worth the two hour drive. You'll dance, drink, meet some incredibly friendly local drag queens, and have stories for years. Currently, Rainbow Mountain is for sale, so enjoy it while it lasts. Its location is a goldmine, and with a fresh coat of paint and a few trips to Home Goods, it could be transformed into something that could command twice the price. These '60s era retreats are becoming few and far between, and Rainbow Mountain is a time capsuled treasure. If you really want to get away - from it all - it's the place for you...for now.

Radnor Hunt Concours d'Elegance

If your a fan of high society, Sunday hats, and finely crafted automobiles, Philadelphia's backyard has been host to the mid-Atlantic's foremost car show for two decades. This weekend was Radnor Hunt's twentieth Concours d'Elegance, and it's one of the best places to see the most amazing automotive works of art this side of Pebble Beach. 

When the bar for events accessible to most is the BYO-everything Diner en Blanc, it's easy to see that Philadelphians are accustomed to settling for the status quo. Our urban renaissance is a clear indication that we are thirsty for more, but there is another world within the region that has never settled, and Malvern's Radnor Hunt and its Concours is emblematic of that world. 

In short, it's money.

The Concours d'Elegance isn't cheap. I snagged two general admission tickets for $40 a piece, but to attend the entire three day event will set you back more than a grand. I couldn't tell you if the black-tie gala, dinner, or road rally are worth a month of my rent, but I'm pretty sure that those who attend don't really care about a cool G. I can tell you though, as an enthusiast, the general admission is well worth it. 

Two gull-wing Mercedes SLs worth more than I'll see in my lifetime.

For those not privy to the everyday Main Line, you'll see dozens of cars you've only ever seen in magazines. This year's featured car was the Lancia, a quirky Italian carmaker many people have never heard of. I've always heard the Lancia referred to as the "poor man's Ferrari," but the classics on display were anything but poor. This year's show also featured three gull-wing Mercedes SLs, each worth about $1.5M. In fact, with more than a hundred classic cars on display, plus FC Kerbeck's stock of new exotics, the collective value of the show was easily worth more than the Comcast Center.

Again: money.

But you don't need to be rich, or an automotive enthusiast, to enjoy the Concours. For such a bougie event at such a restrictive venue, visitors and vendors were incredibly friendly. Owners were often on site and eager to talk about their investments. It's easy to look at a fully restored Packard and assume its owner is both loaded and snotty. But like any hobby, the enthusiasts run the gamut. Some are wealthy collectors, others sunk savings into their dream cars, and even more put time and energy into barn-finds.

Obviously the focus of the event were the cars, but there were also antique horse drawn carriages, motorcycles, and a fabulous musical trio called The American Bombshells that travel to veterans and perform at USO shows. And then there were the hats. Oh, the hats. What Sunday afternoon at a hunt club would be complete without a pageant of colorfully plumed, wide brimmed hats? The Sunday hats could have been a show of their own. 

So next summer, if you're looking for something a cut above the rest and want to catch a glimpse of Philadelphia's high society, take a short drive out to horse country. You'll see some things you will never see anywhere else, hear some great music, and get to sit behind the wheel of a car worth more than your house. Maybe next year I'll see what else the Concours d'Elegance has to offer - the gala, the road race, the dinner - perhaps if I start saving now.