Bethlehem Bonanza

I arrived at the gravel yard at Weldship in Bethlehem searching for a trailer that wasn’t there. A day cab approached and a man that looked like he was boss informed me that the trailer was in the shop getting a power wash.

“You’re gonna spend a night here?”

I looked across the street and saw a Comfort Inn and beyond the hill, gothic style medieval architecture and I already knew the answer.

“Any good places to grab a bite, enjoy a beer?”

“This is Lehigh valley and we’re known for our pizza joints – they’re a dime a dozen. And if you wanna grab a drink, there’s an old-style dive bar down yonder.

There’s not much in Bethlehem except for beer and tacos. With no classes at Lehigh University the only place that piqued my interest was the Funhouse – a college, dive bar that was emptying due to the expiration of happy hour.

The Funhouse is a Cool spot with lots of character. As soon as I walked in, the manager Derek greeted me and asked me what I wanted to drink.

“Magic Hat,” I replied.

“And what would you like to eat?”

“Not hungry, really.” This is a dive bar – didn’t know they served food.

“With the Coronavirus, Penn law requires you to buy something. Hot dog, fries, wings?”

“Ok, wings – half a dozen – deep fried and naked please.”

“You got it, Naked hot wings and #9 coming right up.”

I looked around and admired all the pictures on the wall of musicians who have performed here over the years.

“Yes, Talking Heads, Start Making Sense and the Killers got their start here,” said Derek. “They start here and then move up to the Wind Creek Event Center.”

There’s so much knick knacks and nostalgia hidden in these walls. Each headshot and clipping had its own story, and I could easily imagine a grungy tribute band playing here surrounded by students and locals jamming out on a Monday night.

I walked out to the back porch – it was a chill spot with several college-aged kids hanging out. Without classes, there wasn’t a reason not to drink on a Monday night. After all this is the quintessential college pub – drinks are budget-friendly and the place is tight, dark and reeks of booze & smoke.

There’s a pool table, but we can’t play because everyone has to be seated. When you open the door to the bathroom, you stare straight at the toilet. So if you need to take a dump, please lock the door. The restroom is so tight that when you open the door, you actually have to straddle the john to close the door.

That’s alright – at least you can keep an eye on the pool game while doing your thing.

I asked the guys what they were up to on a Monday night

“We’re just chillin'”

“We’re not staying late, since there’s no music tonight. Before the pandemic, there was live music every night.”

“We’re just happy to have our favorite dive bar open again.”

Derek’s shift was over and a lady dressed like a cocktail waitress had come in.

“Hi, I’m Tammy, another #9?”

“Yes please. So are you from here?”

“Originally from Dallas, but I’ve lived here and worked here now for nine years and never want to leave.”

“Wow, what do you like about this place?”

“There’s so much history here. As the name suggests, the staff and customers love to have a good time. Even if that means acting silly sometimes. And the owners, Chris and Tina are great to work for. They’re like family to me.”

I downed my beer and headed back to the cab for a good night sleep in the yard, surrounded by compressed gas tube trailers.

The next morning, I met Tom, one of the managers who proudly gave me a tour of the trailers.

“We make the entire trailer on site. They are precision crafted, high strength steel. We ship a lot of our trailers overseas and we even cater to the US Government and the military” said Tom.

“Wow, she’s a beauty – short and heavy. How long has Weldship been in business?” I inquired.

“We were founded in 1946 to manufacture welded barges for Hudson River refineries.”

“Really, almost 75 years. But why here in Lehigh Valley?”

“Well, Bethlehem Steel was here – the world’s largest steel and shipbuilding company – so we received a lot of work for the refineries.

“Yeah, too bad. When I was in Buffalo last month, I passed by their abandoned plant.”

“So what’s the biggest trailer Weldship makes?” I asked.

“The Super Max Jumbo – fitted with nine 42 foot long seamless steel tubes and weighs about 60,0000 lbs,” Tom replied.

“Wow, so how much does my trailer weigh?”

“The one you’re pulling is been leased to Aero in Auburn, Maine and weights 35,000 lbs on a 24 foot frame.

Wow, how would she ride on the hills of PA and Massachusetts? It would take some time to get used to such a short trailer.

Would she ride better because she has less drag – more weight distributed on my drives? This been my first big load after my breakdown, we shall see.

Auburn, ME, here I come…