It had been far too long since we traveled to the East Coast to see our kids at their domicile. As restrictions have eased and a return to normal is in progress, we decided it was time to get on a plane and go see them. I have traveled a couple times for work this spring, but Jennifer had not been on an airplane since Feb of 2020 when we attended our granddaughter’s baptism. Jennifer decided things are better now and was comfortable enough to take the leap and do the “air travel” thing. With both of us fully vaccinated, we feel very comfortable going out now, so the time was right.
Since we were already flying that far, a full day of travel, we decided to take a mini-vacation. Both kids work all week, so we planned on an extended weekend to visit them, and a short get away to the Poconos during the week for us while they were at work. We decided on Jim Thorpe, PA for our stay. I had never heard of the place, but Jennifer found it in some of her reading and it looked like a great place to relax and enjoy. Plus, we had never been to that area before.
Jim Thorpe is named for the famous athlete. The original town, called Mauch Chunk, was a company town for the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company (LC&N). There are numerus coal mines and coal towns in the area where anthracite coal was plentiful. Spoiler alert, we visited one. The LC&N started as a coal transport company along the Lehigh River then along the Lehigh Canal and eventually transitioned to the railroad. Another spoiler alert, there is a scenic train here. The town had money back in the day, and the historic area is filled with Victorian homes and buildings. In 1954 the town was renamed in honor of Jim Thorpe and his remains were laid to rest in a memorial at the top of the hill.
We spent our stay in Jim Thorpe at the Dolan House B&B. We have stayed in many B&Bs before, but this was the first time we had ever stayed in a B&B in the U.S. It is a lovely Queen Anne Victorian house built originally built for John C. Dolon; banker for the LC&N, founding member of the Second National Bank of Mauch Chunk, and jeweler. We stayed in the turret room with wonderful views down historic Broadway and the Lehigh River Valley. It was the perfect base for us. OBTW, the breakfasts are to die for, and the hospitality is in a class by itself. Thanks Jeffrie and Michael for a great stay.
The area is known for its outdoor recreation; biking, kayaking, fishing, hiking and rafting. But for us, it was a wonderful place to just relax, be lazy and enjoy the local area. We spent a morning walking around the town and the historic areas. Really a neat town. The town cemetery is up on a hill. Walking through looking at the old markers always makes us wonder about life back then. The Lutheran church next door had some wonderful stained glass. We could not go inside, but the outside still gave us a great view of the detail and design of it. There are two big mansions in town belonging to Asa Packer and his son, the owners of the LC&N. after our walk, we spent a nice afternoon sitting on the porch, reading and drinking lemonade.
Somehow, Jennifer always manages to surprise me and find a scenic railroad for us to enjoy. The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railroad runs along the Lehigh River through Lehigh Gorge along the tracks and route the old coal trains took to bring coal down from the mines on into the big cities and steel plants of the early 20th century. My soft spot with railroads has always been steam locomotives, this one has them, but they only run them on special occasions. That was just fine as the scenery and the ride was wonderful all around. They really do a great job.
We took a couple afternoon drives around the area. One to Lehigh Gorge State Park near Rockport. There was a small bridge and river access to the Lehigh River to just sit and feel the cool air from the water. Another drive was to Boulder Field. Which is exactly that, boulders that were pushed up from the ground through heaves.
One of the more unique things we did was tour a coal mine. The No. 9 Mine near Landsford is an anthracite mine that was used from 1855 until 1972. It laid abandoned for some time until in the late 90s a local group decided to preserve it as a museum and tribute to their ancestors who had worked there. We went into the mine by rail on an old mine train car about 1,600 feet into the mountain. At the end of the line, we got out and took a guided walking tour through the shafts. The walls are coal and if you touch them, you will get the black of the coal on you. The ground water is constantly dripping and it is REALLY dark! At one point on the tour, they turn out all the lights and only a small candle light on a helmet worn by the guide is all there is.
There is also an old mine company town nearby. Eckley Miners’ Village is a living history museum of an actual old mine town, complete with company stores, church and social club. It was also the site of the filming of the 1970 movie The Molly Maguires. Unfortunately, the museum was closed the day we were there, but we were able to walk down the streets.
We did get to eat at some wonderful places while we were there. Across from the B&B is the Marion Hose Co. No1, a converted fire station. They sell whiskey flights, so of course I had to try one. Moya is a quiet little restaurant located on Stone Row. We had wonderful small plate dishes, almost tapa-like. And Craig found a donut shop, Donerds is a specialty shop with designer donuts. They make a certain amount every morning, and close when they sell out, usually very early!
As the weekend approached, we headed to New Jersey for the real reason we were on the East Coast; to see our kids. As we mentioned, it had been almost 18 months since we had been there, so there was a lot of catching up to do. As they usually do, they took us to some great restaurants and planned lots of time for us to catch up and just hang out. We dined on wood fired artisan pizza at Dough Artisan Pizzeria, had tapas at Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas and of course some NY cheesecake at Anthony’s Cheese cake.
The kids love to go spend a weekend day hanging out at the outdoor venue of local wineries, so do we by the way. We spent a great afternoon at Brook Haven Winery just hanging out, tasting wines and eating our picnic lunch. Totally awesome day. Not too hot, beautiful countryside views and some really good wines. We just sat and caught up on all the happenings in our lives.
We are all also history buffs, so they took us to Liberty State Park in Jersey City. It is directly across from the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The area served as a major waterfront area and as the main demarcation point for 19th and early 20th century immigrants as the headed into the interior of the country. It is a wonderful park with a long boardwalk along New York Bay with some outstanding views of the skyline and the Statue of Liberty. Aligned with the skyline is a memorial to those from New Jersey killed in the 9/11 attack. The memorial is two lone stainless-steel walls with names on them. When you stand back and look down it, the two walls align perfectly to the point in the skyline where the twin towers were. It was very moving.
We drove over to the other side of the canal/marina to the Korean War memorial and the walked through the historic district to the business district of Jersey City. The old historic district is lined with restored brownstones and parks, really like a step back in time. The business district is directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan with a nice river boardwalk and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.
After a great day, we headed back to Montclair and up to the Alto Roof Bar on the top of our hotel. It was a great place to have drinks, with great views of the skyline and Eagle Rock park.
What a great way to get back into the swing of travel. We had a perfect, relaxing, and enjoyable trip and cannot wait to go back again. Next time it will not be so long between trips.