Road trips are fun. Sometimes you just have to get away from it all and get some perspective. Which was exactly what I did one day last week. Delaware is a beautiful state, but it’s flatness can annoy me at times. So I ventured to where I once lived, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where a hill actually means something and isn’t a road going up to a bridge over the C & D Canal.
My first stop was the small town of Washington’s Crossing. It is exactly what the name states, the place where General George Washington crossed the Delaware River on Christmas Day, 1776. There are two parks associated with the crossing. I always preferred the older one when I lived in the area. It is off to the side of River Road, also known as Route 32. If you blink you can miss it. It doesn’t get as much traffic. When I used to live the next town over, I would go there a lot. It is very quiet and peaceful. I would listen to music, read, or write in my journal. Sometimes I would hang out there with others. The bottom two pictures of this section are from the new park. With a vast open area, I spent time there as well, just laying out in the field with friends or family getting a suntan or just relaxing.
Back To The Old House
A year after high school, my parents moved to Pennsylvania from New York and I went with them. From 1989 to 1996 they lived in that house in Newtown as I attended college and entered the working world before moving to Sweden in 1996. The house looked the same. I drove off one of the side roads on the way back to River Road. I used to walk down that road a lot back in the day. There was an old fruit farm back there, but it was now gone, replaced by the sprawl of new homes and a golf course. Time has a way of changing a place and the only traces of what that road once was are trapped in my memories.
If you drive 20 minutes north of Washington Crossing, you will come to New Hope. This touristy town has everything. When I lived in the area, in Newtown, I heard about New Hope immediately when I moved there in 1989. Aside from the many shops and bars, New Hope is known for something else: an overwhelming acceptance of the gay community. Having spent a considerable amount of time there in the 1990s, I firmly believe this helped to lift some stereotypes I had of homosexuals. I worked at a restaurant there for a very brief time in 1990. After I turned 21, I spent a lot of time at the various bars in New Hope. This helped to foster an understanding and acceptance for homosexuality. While I am not homosexual, I know many people who are. We are all people, no matter what shape or color we are. No matter who we love. We all have the same basic needs. We are all human.
The countless memories I have of New Hope could fill a book. The people I was closest with during the time I lived in Pennsylvania all hold a special place in my heart. Many of those memories exist in this town. I don’t keep in touch with a lot of those people I met during that time. I try, but I knew so many people back then. I’ve always been a people person which I lost for many years. While certain locales and buildings may change, New Hope still has the same personality it had 28 years ago when I first drove into the town. Whether it was with a friend or a lover, my time spent in this town, day or night, is filled with memories which will always last a lifetime.
Interesting side-note about the next picture. This location used to be “my bar” so to speak. Zadars, back in the day, was the happening nightclub in this area of Bucks County. I spent many a night there. It has special meaning for me for many reasons. Some friends I met there, at one time or another, I still talk to today. For those who knew me back then, they know why Zadars was an important place for me. Sadly, it closed at some point over the last 20 or so years. In the above picture, the Bucks County Playhouse is the home of many Delaware plays. Next year, the former location of Zadars will become the Playhouse Inn.
22 years ago, on a very hot and humid summer evening, someone told me something I never forgot. We were standing outside of Zadars and the person told me to look at the sky. I have always remembered those words and done exactly what the person said to me. Every single time. The above picture is the exact spot where we were standing and the same location in the sky.
Other cool bars or landmarks of New Hope can be seen below.
Across the Delaware River from New Hope is the New Jersey town of Lambertville. If you walk across the bridge, you can get awesome pictures of the Delaware River to the south. Note to cycling enthusiasts: you must walk your bike across the bridge!
Once you walk or drive across the bridge, you can look back over at New Hope with a different perspective.
When you pass the town of New Hope, River Road continues for a long time until you get to Route 611 in the northern part of Bucks County. Taking a bit of a historical side-turn here, there is a town called Devil’s Half-Acre shortly after you leave New Hope. According to Wikipedia, this is how the town got it’s name:
The sole building that exists on The Devil’s Half-Acre is a tavern that was built in 1800 when the Pennsylvania Canal was being dug. The original owner of the building ran the tavern illegally and it was frequently in trouble with authorities. Current legend holds that it is haunted by the ghosts of canal workers that were killed during drunken brawls. The owner, fearing further trouble with the law, would bury the recently killed laborers in shallow graves behind the tavern.
While I didn’t take the below picture of the sign, I did look for it. I couldn’t find it during my journey. But I do remember the first time I saw it during my first ride up River Road and it scared the hell out of me!
Okay, back to my road trip. Many tourists and locals head over to Dilly’s Corner on their way up or down the river. I remember many times spent there with friends getting ice cream or a bite to eat!
Just past Dilly’s lies the town of Lumberville. There is a really cool general store there that I would also stop into for a soda or something to eat when I would drive to the next part of my journey. One time I found a walking bridge into New Jersey nestled behind a hotel. On the Jersey side is a huge park.
Another side-note here. When I was walking back to the Pennsylvania side, I noticed something very strange on the side of the bridge. One of the concrete posts of the bridge had an area where folks tossed their change. But as I looked at the various coins on the flat surface, I noticed a gold wedding ring. I wondered what happened. Did someone drop it on purpose? Perhaps a couple became engaged at that particular spot and when that marriage ended, an upset lover threw the ring there.
When I got back to Lumberville, it was getting warmer out and I went to the General Store to get a soda. I found the coolest looking soda bottle ever made!
Tohickon Valley Park
A friend of mine took me here in 1995. I lived in the area for six years at this point and I never knew this place existed. If you go past Lumberville a bit, you take a left on Cafferty Road to get to the park. You find yourself looking to the left and seeing a very huge drop as you go up the road. Thank God for guard rails!
I love old stone walls. They are a true testament of time. When I grew up in New York, we had these old stone walls on our property. Built years ago as property markers, they remind me of different times. I love the fact that Tohickon Valley Park has left these walls untouched.
Yes, the park has a pool but the true treasure is deeper into the park. As you venture down the park road, there are cabins you can rent out. Below them is Tohickon Creek. To me, this is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. There is one area where the water is deep enough to go swimming. While non-cabin renters aren’t really allowed in this area, I have no doubt many brave souls have ventured past the warning sign and gone down there. I could talk about the memories I have here, but sometimes a song sums it up best, a song appropriately called “Nightswimming” by R.E.M.
Nightswimming, remembering that night
September’s coming soon
I’m pining for the moon
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
As if Tohickon Creek wasn’t beautiful enough, if you hike back up to your car in the park, get in your car, drive a couple of miles, and take a left on Cafferty Road, a more glorious destination awaits. You have to take a left out of the park and drive a couple of miles. Take a left on Tory Road, drive a mile and a half or so, and the road branches off. Stay on Tory Road. If you go another mile or so, you will see a small parking area to the right. Park your car. Put on some hiking shoes. You have now entered High Rocks.
High Rocks is exactly how it sounds. Rock climbers brave the treacherous cliffs. Some have lost their lives here attempting this feat. For a while, about 17 years ago, High Rocks was closed. I found this spot in 1995 as well during that very hot summer. It wasn’t long after my first venture to Tohickon Valley Park. A friend of mine at work told me about High Rocks and I knew I had to check it out. This is another area of countless memories. I find myself returning there often. Not so much in my later years. The last time I went (prior to my most recent trip) was on the day of my mother’s funeral four years ago. In the fall of 1999, after Hurricane Floyd ripped through southeastern Pennsylvania, I took a trip with my father over to High Rocks. Tohickon Creek had become a raging river! People were actually kayaking down the creek. But for me, the roots of High Rocks exist in those 1995 dog days of summer.
I decided to venture down to the stream from High Rocks. This did not mean I was going to rock climb down the cliffs, but rather walk down the meandering path around the cliffs. As I did so, I noticed many rock climbers already scaling the walls.
Don’t try this unless you have the proper equipment and someone to train you. I saw a couple of memorials to those who lost their lives here. While my pictures don’t give this a true perspective, it is a long drop if you fall.
As I went down a fairly steep hill to get to the stream, making sure I carefully balanced myself at points as there were many loose rocks, I sat on a rock overlooking the stream to just sit and enjoy the stillness.
There are times in our lives when we have to reconnect with our pasts. But at the same time, face an uncertain future. All the while learning to let go and heal. This day, this road trip, was all of that for me. I am in a moment of transition. It is daunting at times, and that is on the best days. But I always have hope. As I went back up the trail, I found a huge flat rock for my moment of rest after going up the loose shale trail. This cool rock had my name on it. As I laid on the rock, I felt a huge sense of relief, that I had moved past a part of my life and into the next.
As I looked to the sky, the vast blue above the trees, I found my peace.
My adventure into the wilderness ended. There were other things I wanted to do during this day trip, but by this time I was tired. I had one last destination, a 50’s themed restaurant called The American Grill at the intersection of Route 32 and Route 611. I was going to grab lunch there, but when I arrived at my destination, the restaurant looked abandoned and was worn-down. At some point in time over the past 17 years, the restaurant closed. They had the best burgers. This slice of Americana was gone forever. I remember one night I ate there while camping at Tohickon Valley Park back in 1995. Because of a severe drought that late summer, no fires were allowed at campsites. So the campers went out to eat and The American Grill was our destination. I will never forget the drive up River Road, in the darkness. The songs on the radio and the hint of Autumn with the windows rolled down and a touch of coolness in the air, singing a song on the curvy road.
The next time I go up there, I want to bring my son and go tubing or rafting down the Delaware River. There is actually a place, before Lumberville, where you can take a bus up the river and then tube or raft down the river back to the same location. I did it once many years ago. As well, between Washington Crossing and New Hope, there is Bowman’s Tower. I attempted to go there during my travels, but they were not open yet. I spent many of my first days when I moved to Pennsylvania back in 1989 just exploring. Bowman’s Tower was one of the first places I found. You drive up a large hill and you can see the tower. I’m not sure what the admission rate is now, but back then it was $3.00. You actually go up an elevator to get to the top. Once at the top, you can see for miles around you. On a very clear day, you can see what feels like forever. There is also the Sand Castle Winery for the wine lover aficionados out there. That is on Erwinna, PA.
Try and enjoy the here and now, The future will take care of itself somehow. The grass is never greener over there. -Howard Jones, Life In One Day
You can do a lot in one day if you put your mind to it. Sometimes you just have to take some time for yourself and go soul-searching. That’s what I did that day. And I did find my soul. I found it where it always was, inside myself. It was hiding and waiting for the rest of me to find it. Unlocked by God’s mysteries and nature, and memories of far away places and people. While it was awesome to see my old haunts, I look forward to finding new ones.