Jersey Shore, Part 7 (Leftovers)

The Jersey Shore trip came to an end all too soon.  I still had a few things to talk about, though.  Some topics didn’t fit neatly into the earlier categories so I lumped them all together in this final article.  After that, Twelve Mile Circle will hibernate once more until I find something else to write about.  I’m not sure when that will be.  Currently I don’t have any travel plans so it may be awhile.

Rutgers Half Marathon

Half-Marathon Route as recorded on my GPS watch

After the unexpected, miserable ten hour drive to our initial destination where I could barely make it through dinner at a local brewpub without falling asleep, I didn’t feel very confident about running the next morning.  Oddly, I felt great when the new dawn arrived, as if the previous day never even happened.  The course felt pretty comfortable too.  I finished the Rutgers Half Marathon with a time of 1:43:32 in pretty decent shape.

That put me in 180th place overall, although surprisingly it was good enough for third place in my age group.  Sometimes getting older doesn’t suck and I got an extra medal for my effort too.  I kept pace for an even faster finish until we hit the last two miles with a couple of strenuous uphills and had to slow down.  Seriously, what kind of sadistic race director puts the hills near the end?  I still enjoyed the race and I’d probably do it again if I found myself in the area.


Gambling

In the Casino

I’m not a gambler.  I could probably move to Nevada and live in one of the two towns that ban gambling without any issues.  Of course, avoiding gambling in New Jersey would be a lot easier since it’s not nearly as ubiquitous.  We were in Atlantic City though.  How could I not visit at least one casino?

That said, I had no idea where to stay.  I knew nothing about the wide range of casino hotels available there.  The Super 8 wouldn’t do, naturally enough, although that hardly limited the choices.  A co-worker familiar with such things suggested the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino so we stayed there. Hotels were dirt cheap, subsidized by guests’ gambling losses, no doubt.  We paid half as much at the Hard Rock as we did at any other place during our entire Jersey Shore trip.

My wife gambled double her usual amount… $2!  No worries.  She let me count my counties so I could hardly begrudge a couple of bucks.


Lucy the Elephant

Lucy the Elephant

I love roadside attractions, the cheezier the better, and Margate City included a true icon of the genre.  Various sites on the Intertubes described Lucy the Elephant as the oldest surviving roadside attraction in the United States (map).  I couldn’t prove that claim although Lucy dated back to 1881 so it was genuinely old. Thank goodness local activities saved Lucy from the wrecking ball in the 1960’s when she fell into serious disrepair.  Now she continues to tower over the beach in her original splendor.

Lucy should have been closed that day like the lighthouses.  I stopped to take some exterior shots and found her open for business!  Our lucky streak continued.  We got to go inside and climb the stairs in Lucy’s back leg, and discovered a surprisingly room interior, not cramped at all (photo).  It felt like the cross between a church and a social club.  Then we climbed more stairs to her howdah for great views up and down the beach (photo).  What a fortunate opportunity!


Southernmost Point in New Jersey

Land’s End

I also managed to capture a genuine geo-oddity, the southernmost point of land in New Jersey.  This didn’t make it onto any tourist maps.  I tracked it down all on my own in Cape May (map).  The boulder on the far left marked the actual spot.  For one brief shining moment, nobody in New Jersey could claim to stand any farther south within the state than me.  Not that anyone else cared.  I knew better though.


Cape May – Lewes Ferry

The Ferryboat Delaware

We left New Jersey on the Cape May – Lewes Ferry, crossing the seventeen mile mouth of Delaware Bay (map).  This remarkably large ferry carried about a hundred vehicles; cars, recreational vehicles and even trucks.  I’m not sure it really saved any time even if the overland route followed a large U-shaped detour around the Delmarva Peninsula. That wasn’t really the point.  I’d rather take a relaxing boat ride followed by an easy drive down a lightly-traveled highway on a more direct route any day.

I rode this ferry once before.  In fact, I’m pretty sure this may have been the very first ferry I ever experienced (certainly the first I remembered).  We took a family trip across the bay sometime during my early High School years.  This sparked a lifetime interest in ferries and began my relentless collection of them ever since.  I welcomed the opportunity to return to where it all began.


Articles in the Jersey Shore Series:

  1. Huh?
  2. Boardwalks
  3. Lighthouses
  4. Brewery Renaissance
  5. Positive Signs
  6. A Little History
  7. Leftovers

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Jersey Shore, Part 3 (Lighthouses)

I enjoy visiting lighthouses .  They’re also one of those things I like to count and track.  Of course I researched the most promising locations long before I ever got to the New Jersey coastline.  This shore seemed particularly attractive so I sifted through a bunch of options and planned my strategy.

I found several possibilities although I also discovered that many of them wouldn’t be open during mid-April at least according to their websites. I thought I’d go there anyway and at least take some exterior photos.  Fortunately, the situation differed in a happy way for once.  Every single lighthouse was open that week.  We were able to climb a bunch of spiral staircases to gaze upon the Atlantic Ocean like keepers of yore.

Navesink Twin Lights

One of the Navesink Twin Lights

We knew the Navesink Twin Lights in Highlands Borough would be open, one of the few accurately depicting its status ahead of time (map).  I’d never seen a facility quite like this one though with two towers flanking a large keepers quarters.  The solid stone construction and imposing footprint made the exterior seem more like a prison with watchtowers.

They allowed visitors to climb the north tower to experience sweeping views across New York Harbor with Manhattan skyscrapers visible in the distance (photo). Such a busy port required something as distinctive as these dual lights, guiding ships past hazards since its construction in 1862.


Sandy Hook Lighthouse

Sandy Hook Lighthouse

We fully expected the Sandy Hook Lighthouse to be closed that day (map).  We showed up anyway, just as a park ranger walked from the keepers quarters and unlocked the door to the tower.  He’d been escorting a small tour group and he asked if we wanted to join them.  Of course we did!  So we got to climb the light while learning about the history of the site.

This tower actually predated the United States.  It began shining in 1764 and held the record as the oldest working lighthouse on U.S. soil.  British troops occupied the light during much of the Revolutionary War.  The rebellious Continental Army tried and failed to destroy the tower, so it survived the conflict intact.  It occupied a spot practically at the tip of Sandy Point when first constructed.  However, sand continued to accumulate along the shoreline over the last couple of centuries and now the tower sits about a mile and a half from the current point.


Barnegat Light

Barnegat Light

The Barnegat Light proved so iconic that the surrounding town adopted its name, having originally been called Brownsville.  It took some driving to get all the way out to the tip of Long Beach Island (map) and that added to its appeal.  Historically, the lighthouse provided a particularly important aid to navigation.  It marked a dangerous shoal where ships had to change course on an otherwise straight-line track between New Jersey and New York.

This one had an interesting background too.  A U.S. Army engineer designed the light and construction wrapped-up in 1859.  The designer happened to be George G. Meade, who later became a Major General for the Union army during the Civil War.  He defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg.  I’m not sure how a lighthouse designer became a commanding general in such a significant battle.  Clearly he had multiple talents.

Our visit took place on an extremely windy day.  The tower’s extra elevation only added to that effect.  We were perfectly safe although it felt like we might get blown out to sea.


Absecon Lighthouse

Absecon Lighthouse

George Meade designed the Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, too (map).  In fact his success at Absecon led to the assignment for Barnegat.  He saw Absecon rise in 1857.

This one is now the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the third tallest in the United States (171 feet / 42 metres).  I can vouch that I definitely felt every foot of elevation gain as we climbed each successive step to the top.

Once the tallest structure in Atlantic City, any number of casinos now dwarfed it.  Those were a little farther away from the tower so it still offered some nice views.  Well, parts of the view seemed nice, like the beaches and the ocean and the boardwalk.  That contrasted with the elevated gaze onto crumbling row houses, empty weed-strewn lots, and urban blight.  I tried to ignore that part.


Cape May Lighthouse

Cape May Lighthouse

Another wonderful light appeared at the far southern tip of New Jersey.  The Cape May Lighthouse began operations in 1859 and continues to serve as an active navigational aid (map).  Two predecessor lighthouses sat at unfortunate locations nearby.  Actually, those sites no longer existed, having been swallowed by the sea.

The current structure fared much better, placed a little farther back from the shoreline and constructed to withstand the strongest hurricanes.  We saw more tourists here than at any of the other lights.  It didn’t surprise me.  We stopped by on a warm afternoon with perfect weather.


Bonus!

We even found a couple of unexpected lighthouses as we rode the ferry across the mouth of Delaware Bay.  We couldn’t stop at either one them of course, although we did get close enough for some pictures.

Harbor of Refuge Light

No natural harbors existed near the entrance to Delaware Bay so a series of breakwaters were constructed in the vicinity of Lewes, Delaware during the second half of the nineteenth century.  These collectively came to be known as the National Harbor of Refuge.  Ships heading up or down the Atlantic coast or over to the port of Philadelphia that encountered stormy conditions could stop at the refuge for safety.  Lighthouses were used as beacons to mark the breakwaters.  The Harbor of Refuge light became a primary focal point.

Delaware Breakwater East End Light

The Delaware Breakwater East End Light served in conjunction with the Harbor of Refuge Light to guide those ships to safety.


Articles in the Jersey Shore Series:

  1. Huh?
  2. Boardwalks
  3. Lighthouses
  4. Brewery Renaissance
  5. Positive Signs
  6. A Little History
  7. Leftovers

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

Jersey Shore, Part 2 (Boardwalks)

What should people do when they visit the Jersey Shore?  Hit some of the many well-known boardwalks of course.  I doubt any other stretch of Atlantic coastline in the United States has a greater density of boardwalks than New Jersey.  We traveled the length of the state’s waterfront, heading north to south, from Sandy Hook to Cape May and strolled down several boardwalks along the way.

I don’t think anyone could walk every one of them in a single week although we gave it a good shot.  Each one had its own unique characteristics that appealed to distinctly different audiences.

Asbury Park

Asbury Park Boardwalk

We strolled the Asbury Park boardwalk (map) on an early weekday morning as a storm rolled out to sea, leaving the planks damp and deserted.  The previous evening seemed a lot more lively although probably considerably quieter than what it must be like during the summer.  Some places remained open all year round including the Silverball Museum (photo) where visitors could play vintage pinball machines by the hour or the day.  The nearby Wonder Bar (photo) offered a nice spot to stop for a drink.  A few of the restaurants also seemed open.

It evoked images of Bruce Springsteen who got his start here, performing at the Stone Pony (photo) and other clubs in the vicinity.  Madam Marie’s psychic booth (photo), mentioned in his “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” continued to exist.  The original Madam Marie passed away years ago although a descendant still told fortunes at that spot.


Barnegat Light

Viking Village at Barnegat Light

Barnegat Light didn’t actually have a boardwalk.  The town fell a little off the beaten path at the very northern tip of Long Beach Island and didn’t have enough visitors to support one.  However, it did have Bayview Avenue, a nice road that hugged the island’s western coastline.  Infrequent traffic moved at a leisurely pace and wide shoulders offered plenty of room for walkers or bikers.  Local marinas included actual working fishing boats in addition to pleasure craft, a more blue collar atmosphere than many of the other shore towns.  A small area of former fishing shacks called Viking Village (map) provided the closest thing to a shopping district.


Atlantic City

Boardwalk Hall

Imagine the exact opposite of Barnegat Light’s solitude and that would describe the boardwalk at Atlantic City.  Casinos lined the shore along a wide wooden trail.  Crowds enjoyed springtime warmth as they roved from one gambling establishment to another.  Boardwalk Hall (map) in its Art Deco magnificence rose above the esplanade, the famous home of the Miss America pageant.  Unfortunately, almost every part of town just a block to the west confirmed preconceived notions of the financial decline of the city.  Those blemishes weren’t visible from the boardwalk though.


Ocean City

Mini-Golf at Ocean City

Ocean City’s boardwalk (map) gave a much more wholesome experience.  Gaudy and cheezy came to mind almost immediately, although in a pleasantly nostalgic way.  Three distinct buying experiences dominated the local scene:  T-shirt shops; miniature golf courses and pizza parlors.  I’d never seen such a concentration of any of these types of businesses in such a short distance.  It seemed like dozens.  Don’t try to find a beer though.  Ocean City has been “dry” since its founding in 1879.  Alcohol can’t be sold there, a point the town uses to bolster its family-friendly reputation.


Wildwood

Wildwood

Wildwood featured amusement park after amusement park along its scenic oceanfront boardwalk (map).  Oddly, most of the shops on this stretch hadn’t yet opened for the season, more so than any of the other seashore towns we visited that week.  All I could guess was that maybe they couldn’t attract enough visitors until the amusement parks opened, and the rides weren’t operating in mid April.  It didn’t matter to us though.  We came to walk.


Cape May

Full Moon at Dawn on Cape May

Technically speaking, Cape May didn’t have a boardwalk.  It had a promenade (map).  No trees died in the making of this town’s beachfront strip.  The solid asphalt berm likely doubled as a barrier during hurricane season too.  It also lacked storefronts except in one small section.  That made for a great place to jog in the early morning solitude, a flat even surface stretching for more than a mile.


Articles in the Jersey Shore Series:

  1. Huh?
  2. Boardwalks
  3. Lighthouses
  4. Brewery Renaissance
  5. Positive Signs
  6. A Little History
  7. Leftovers

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr