What to do on a beautiful Saturday during the long Labor Day weekend? We quickly settled the “dilemma”, choosing a drive to the Lehigh Valley, and a walk on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem PA, Mike’s alma mater. With the luxury of time, we headed out for the day, planning to drive Interstate-78 Eastbound from our Camp Hill PA home to L.U. … and, to “take back roads” on the Westbound way home.
We are enamored of our son Scott’s concept: enjoy the ride, and the scenery, on the roads less traveled. Robert Frost would be proud!
That plan developed trouble immediately – – a beep and creep back-up on I-83, the feeder to I-78, intervened. Fortunately, we saw it as we arrived at an exit. So we jumped off and started our back road adventure!
Taking the Interstate to Lehigh University
It is interesting to experience the change in one’s physical demeanor – – we noticed almost instantly how relaxed we were, once off the interstate. Back road driving is a healthy choice! We traveled Rte. 22 East from Colonial Park to the end of 22, where we intersected with I-78. It’s been years since we’d traveled on Rte. 22. We’ve driven on I-78 many times, and often noticed an increasing build-up of commercial venues, particularly at the exits. This time, we noted new development along Rt. 22 has slowed considerably. This has served Rte. 22 well, allowing a wonderful little stretch of road to remain “quaint” with farms and small businesses still thriving.
When Rte. 22 ended, we made the decision to stay on I-78 until we reached our destination: the Lehigh Valley. That little stint on 22 calmed our nerves and offered less traffic. (NOTE: Immediately after the Indiantown Gap Exit in Lebanon County, I-83 splits from I-78. 78 goes East, while 83 heads North; most of the truck traffic heads north). We actually enjoyed looking at the few changes that have taken place since we last traveled to the Lehigh Valley, years ago.
Fortunately, not a lot of changes have taken place on I-78 along this part of the corridor. So, it was a bit like taking a back road. We did make a quick stop at the New Smithville exit. No changes there; the same gas stations we saw in 1971! (We were newlyweds.) And still owned by individual proprietors!
New Smithville brings a smile to Beth’s face and memories to mind, because it was a part of the school district where she taught in the ‘70s (yes, “70s”—may seem like a life time for you, but seems like just yesterday to us!). The one change we did notice was less of a Pennsylvania Dutch influence/ownership and a more diverse culture. So, another back road adventure Beth might put on our “Bucket List” … a visit to Northwest Lehigh High School in New Tripoli, to see how it has changed in 45 years.
In the Lehigh Valley, I-78 and Rte. 22 run together from Hamlin, PA to the Wescosville area. At that point, we re-connected with Rte. 22, jumping off I-78. Rte. 22 was the original route through Allentown to Bethlehem. Because I-78 pulls the majority of traffic away from Rte. 22, it’s like a time capsule—nothing has changed for years.
Exploring Lehigh Campus
We arrived at Lehigh University and spent a couple of hours walking around campus, reminiscing about all the memories we have from the years there, and chatting with students. The campus is still a beautiful place!
Beth took this shot from the porch of the University Center (Student Union) looking towards the Chapel (where a wedding was taking place).
She also took the next photos of the University Center from its porch:
Such beautiful old ivy-covered buildings!
Because the campus is on the side of “Old South Mountain” (a steep hill), we decided to get back in our car and drive around the campus, visiting Mike’s old residence hall, McConn House (“it’s NOT a dorm”), the fraternity row and now a sorority row! When Mike went to Lehigh, it was an all-male university. No longer!
We then headed over Mountain Drive South to the “South Campus” and onto old friend I-78, recalling the controversy when it was conceived and first built in the 1970’s. Our goal was to have an early meal at Brass Rail Restaurant… an Allentown fixture for 80 years!
Brass Rail is home to T H E most delicious cheese steaks sandwiches in the Lehigh Valley! If you find yourself on I-78 near Allentown, be sure to get off at the Lehigh St. exit – – and fill up on delicious home made, reasonably priced food. We called our dear friends who live in Alburtis to see if they could join us to chow down on cheese steaks. Plus it was their 45th anniversary the next day, so it was important to all four of us to celebrate! Sylvia was in my wedding and I was in her wedding—lots of history there.
Here we all are!
After over-eating (you can’t eat just one!), we said our “good byes” and Mike and I started for home—on back roads.
Taking Back Roads Home from Lehigh University
To get to a back road from Lehigh Street, it is wise to drive about 2 miles on I-78. We got off on Rte. 222 at Dorneyville (where Dorney Amusement Park is located) and headed West. Ahhhhh, progress and growth. This sleepy little road, once lined with individual homes, small businesses and farmettes, is now crowded with townhouse and cookie-cutter housing developments. Back to the Future. After Wescosville the development seemed to stop and we were back on a road that looked like we had turned back time to The 1970’s.
In order not to avoid driving after dark, we shortened our route and jumped off Rte. 222 onto PA Rte. 183. It’s a beautiful little 2 lane road winding its way through beautiful little farms. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos so this is the only photo I have from Rte. 183.
We took some little local road to get from Rte. 183 to Rte. 422, the final leg of our back roads journey. 422 used to be a “major” road, not so many years ago. Therefore, it has a lot of commercialization, most of it individually owned and thriving, mixed in with farms and individual houses. We did not need to stop for a meal, but there are wonderful options along the way. Most of the fare is Pennsylvania Dutch inspired. A bonus of this journey was a beautiful sunset.
A wonderful day, especially because we took back roads! Not a lot of introspection or philosophizing in this post, yet surely a lot of pleasure. Thank you, Scott, for inspiring us to take back roads !
Beth (Mom) and Mike (Dad)