It’s been eons since I pulled a Convoy load, so it was long overdue. It was a Unilever load of soap, shampoo and other personal care items to Tewksbery, MA – just outside of Boston. I took the Tappan Z going north but in my return trip south, I crossed the legendary GW. It’s a 450 mile return trip, and I was only getting paid $1/mile which with the excessive price of tolls meant I was just barely staying afloat.
To make my trip worthwhile, I decided to do something eccentric on the way back – pay a visit to my long lost Easton. Haven’t been back to this historic two-rivers town since 2017. That was when Western Express abruptly terminated me at the end of my training pipeline. One of the main draws for attending their training in Bethlehem was a chance to stay at historic Easton. And lots of times, instead of waiting impatiently at their ragged terminal to hear when we might be assigned a trainer, I’d rather stay in Easton and sit and admire the falls. The sheer amount of rushing water released negative ions improving my mood so I could better deal with the way Western treated us – like sheep.
So I took a chance and parked on Larry Holmes Drive by the waterfall.
The dam used to provide infrastructure benefits when transportation through the canal was vital. The Lehigh Canal was a major source of transportation in the early 1800’s. In order to fill the canal, a dam was built at the confluence of the Delaware and Lehigh river.
Today, the iconic dam serves as a tourist attraction in this beautiful river landscape. The rushing waters and negative ions created by water crashing into the rocks provides us with positive energy.
The Lehigh River is also where I got a ticket from a Park Ranger for paddle boarding too close to the falls which inexplicably led to a warrant for my arrest.
The second trucking company I worked for, Western Express, put us up in the now defunct Day’s Inn. It was only a hop, skip and a jump from local eateries such as Antonio’s Pizzeria. The pizza is to die for and the beef pies are out of this world. But being a creature of habit, ordered my usual Fettucine Alfredo. And boy was I happy camper. Pat’s Alfredo sauce tasted like creamy, cheesy heaven. The way he cooks his pasta, al dente – chewy and firm and not overcooked. The sauce was so thick and smooth, coating the pasta perfectly.
Pat doing his magic with a moundful of cheese and tomato sauce before the pie is roasted in the hot oven
After Antonio’s, I headed straight to my relic hangout, Rivals Sports Bar. My friend Joel isn’t working there any longer, so maybe I could make new friends
Sure enough I was greeted by an affable fellow by the entrance – not the bouncer but just a local yokel who was “quick with a joke or to light up your smoke.”
“Hi, I’m Chito,” I smiled broadly.
“Nice to meet you. My name’s Zach,” he said as he offered his hand.
I almost reciprocated, but then I caught myself and remembered the coronavirus. I offered him my elbow instead, and we bumped cordially.
“So you gotta check out the show tonight”
“Really, there’s live music here?” I asked incredulously, surprised that anyone would be performing on a Thursday night.
“Yeah, his name is Heart Headed – Ricky Dum Dum. Amazing acoustic. He even sings and drums and makes shit as he goes.
Wow, can’t wait to hear him perform. How do you know him?”
“I’ve seen him around town, at local bars here and there. We’ve drunk together many times before. Easton PA is a small town, and so Allentown isn’t much bigger.”
“Oh cool, so I see you’re from here. What do you do?”
“I’m a painter,” Zach replied proudly.
“That’s a tough job – it’s hard work for sure. Do you like it?” I could see his shirt and jeans were speckled with dried paint of many colors.
“Absolutely,” he replied as he held up his PBR amicably.
I eased myself in – it was just like old times. Fairly busy for a Thursday night, and social distancing made things more challenging. I walked around the U-shaped bar. After a few minutes getting reacquainted, I finally found an empty table. A youngish couple with shots of bourbon going bottoms up and then jovially headed for the door, doing the unimaginable, leaving, untouched food on the table, neatly wrapped in aluminum foil.
I was perplexed. Did they forget their food or where they been charitable? Didn’t want to be presumptuous and start biting into someone else’s hot dog. Besides I eat mine with relish and mustard. Then as I walked to the bar to order my drink, I noticed something strange. The bartender was handing out hot dogs left and right to other patrons.
“Hi there, It’s great to be back to my ole stompin’ grounds.”
“Thats great. Welcome back. I’m Kristy by the way. What are you having?”
I ordered a Tröegs Perpetual IPA paired with an adult slushy – tropical flavor double spiked with vodka. My bartender made my drinks then proceeded to the kitchen and returned with a dog neatly wrapped in foil – just like the wiener that was left on the table – scrawny and dry.
“I’m not hungry,” I said. “Plus the previous customers were kind enough to leave one of those for me.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re hungry or not You could be a vegetarian for all that it matters, ” Kristy replied. “Governor Wolf requires everyone who orders a drink to order food with it. So Happy Hot Dog.”
It finally dawned on me why the couple left the dog, still wrapped in foil on the table. They were been generous to the next patrons. It didn’t matter, I still had to order my own. Now I had two dogs to enjoy with my drinks, so I better keep this tab open.
Sure enough, Zach was spot on with his review on the entertainment.
Ricky aka Heart Headed was a skilled guitarist and multi-talented singer and percussionist He knew where on the guitar to tap to generate the right sound. There is nothing like strong drinks and live music – something I haven’t experienced in a century it seems.
I walked up to the stage and bumped fists with the talent. “So, what’s your secret?”
“Time. Lots of time with it. And pickups. Two in a parallel series, 1/4 inch output. One braided and one humbucker,” replied Heart Headed. “They capture the body and strings.”
As soon as I returned to the cab, it was lights out next to the roar of the Lehigh River, surrounded by the gentle mist of the falls. With the windows down, I was gently nudged asleep by the relaxing rhythm of the falls.
No one knocked on my truck, there was no ticket on my windshield, and I stayed parked in the same prime spot the entire next day.
The next morning I woke to commotion all around me. What was once just me and my truck and the Chain Dam on Larry Holmes Drive had turned into a busy commotion of vendors and volunteers.
It was Saturday and the Easton Farmers’ Market which has been held weekly since 1752 was moved from Centre Square to Larry Holmes Drive to the Coronavirus.
“Our farmers market has survived two world wars, the Civil War and the 1918 pandemic,” said Megan McBride, the Market Director. “We sure are not gonna allow the Coronavirus to stop us now.”
“The Circle has gotten a little snug and cozy,” said Megan. “Holding the market at the park on the bed of the Delaware River presents a better opportunity to adhere to COVID-19 safety practices.”
Outdoor concerts, fairs, expos and other events have been axed throughout the US for the rest of the year – how then have they been allowed to organize a farmer’s market every weekend and close down a very busy street by the waterfront?
Farmers’ markets is considered essential service and the food passes through far fewer hands than at other retail outlets. Markets take place in the open air with space to move away from people if needed, and the temporary nature of the booths allows for easy cleaning and less contact with people.
For lunch, I visited Pat at Antonio’s again and ordered my customary Fettucine Alfredo. This time I decided to do go outside the box and paired it with a Jamaican beef pie. I then returned to take a dip in the river greeted by Canadian Geese and Pennsylvania Wood Ducks who were hoping I brought lunch.
An intermodal freight train rumbled on the bridge over the twin rivers. Across the ravine on the Jersey side, a bunch of rafters were returning from an afternoon of fun drifting on the Delaware.
When I returned to the truck to dry up, I was still unscathed by the long arm of the law. The last time I pushed the limits here, I ended up been scolded by a Penn Park Ranger for paddle boarding too close to the dam and was greeted with a hefty $140 ticket. Sadly I had missed the court date and unbeknownst to me there was a warrant for my arrest until I paid the fine in full.
“What you did was foolish, you could have gotten yourself killed,” the ranger berated me like I was an irresponsible thrill seeker.
I returned to Rivals that evening and finally ordered a warm, gooey cheesesteak, the best in Easton PA.
“You can keep the dog,” I said. “Or better yet, I know some hungry geese down river.”
It was opening night for MLB and the Mets Braves was showing on the big projector screen.
There was also a hard rock and classic cover band performing – there is nothing better than jamming to classic rock. My new friends were there again: Kristy, Zach, Josh and my new ole hangout at Rivals in Easton PA.
I was impressed that Mayor Salvatore J Panto Jr of Easton has been proactive in transforming curbside parking spaces into extended outdoor dining spaces. All over the city, there are little parklets for seating and entertaining. Even at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument where 3rd Street meets Northampton, much of the circle has been roped off for parklets, and surprisingly there’s still plenty of room for traffic to flow through.
So Easton in Phase 2 was alive and well. Looked forward to when Easton goes completely green. But meanwhile the city streets were vibrant with diners, socialites and bar-hopping revelers. The Easton Public Market with taco bowls and mozzarella stuffed meatballs is hopping with so many choices with great selections for everyone. Walking around and people watching, I was truly enjoying my little Easton break. The mid-size towns of Pennsylvania are best kept secret – they are charming, friendly and engaging, and I felt blessed to be in the midst.