05 July 2008

From the banks of the Hudson to the Jersey shore

Saturday, 28 June 2008

We slept in a bit in an attempt to recover from our long hot days in the city, and then we still had laundry to fold, bags to pack, and a car to load, so we did not get an early start this morning. Melanie showed us around the yard so that we could see the results of their landscaping projects. I especially love their beautiful pool and the way it is surrounded by grass instead of a typical deck. The view of the Hudson is spectacular, and she and David recently re-roofed and re-windowed their solarium. They will surely enjoy it this summer! David had suggested that we check out the Croton Mini Deli for an egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich (with ketchup and pepper), so we found our way there (no problems, Mel - good directions!) and got our food and some ice for the road. We drove north up Route 9 to Bear Bridge, where we crossed the Hudson River. Just before we crossed the bridge, we stopped at a scenic overlook (complete with a street vendor!) and saw the place where the American colonists had stretched a chain across the Hudson in an attempt to stop the British during the Revolutionary War. Didn't work, but it was an interesting thought!

We drove a bit farther north to West Point, which is where I wanted to go to school when I was young (and before they accepted women!) Wonder what I was thinking then!! We were hoping to take a tour of the US Military Academy, but we couldn't get on the next one and it was too long to wait for the one after that and do the tour, so we settled for checking out the visitors' center and wandering through the museum. They were very well done and we learned a lot about the history of West Point and a good bit about the life of a cadet. New plebes would be arriving on Monday, so it was pretty quiet today. Kim and I could not imagine how it must feel to drop one's child off with only the clothes on his/her back and some toiletries as a freshman in college! Sure would make packing easy, but the goodbyes must be really tough!

From West Point, we drove along the west side of the Hudson and into New Jersey. We were so disappointed not to find a 'Welcome to New Jersey' sign, but we were excited about being in a state where it's against the law to pump your own gas! Between that and the low gas prices (lowest ones we saw all trip!) we could see many fill-ups in the not too distant future. We were looking for a place called the Gingerbread Castle in Hamburg, NJ. The ride to Hamburg was excruciating - lots of traffic on a four lane highway going through little towns - and we were hoping we wouldn't have to go back the same way. Jill was having trouble getting us where we wanted to go (but at least we had her, since Melanie charged her up for us!) but we spotted a street sign for a street called 'Gingerbread House Road' and decided to take it. We were warned about a one-lane bridge and we went past an old mill and factory, but we did not find the castle/house that we were looking for. Soon, we were back to a highway, so we stopped at a service station and got filled up. We asked the attendant about the castle, and he told us where it was (we had driven right past it) and said that it was in bad repair and under new ownership and that he thought it was closed. We turned around and went back anyway. Lo and behold, there it was, right where we had been distracted by the one lane bridge. It was looking a good bit worse for the wear and indeed, had lots of no trespassing signs posted. So we parked on the side of the road and took pictures from a distance. It looked like it would have been pretty neat back in its heyday. We still saw Humpty Dumpty, the well that I assume Jack and Jill used, the pie that may have contained four and twenty blackbirds, and a few other recognizable nursery rhyme icons.

We were getting pretty hungry, and the gas station guy had told us about a place down the road with a big horse in front of it that had good food, so we went in search of. Before long we came to the horse and the Homestead Rest Restaurant. It was about two o'clock, but thankfully, we could still get lunch. It was an interesting place - the walls were COVERED with photos of prize winning horses and it had a rustic western theme going on. We ordered our iced teas and our server, Kim, brought out these gigantic Ball jars full of ice and tea - my kind of place!! We each got a spinach salad and shared some onion rings. The onion rings were really good, but the salad was missing some ingredients (pine nuts), heavy on others (red onions and goat cheese - yum!) but the dressing was pretty overpowering and we had not thought to ask for it on the side. It was spicy, and even though I love spicy, it was not the complement that it could have been. We ate what we could and then hit the road.

Somewhere along the way, we came to a Toyota dealership and decided to pull in and just see if the service department was still open and we could get our new fuses. Well, we were sort of in luck. It was just after three and the service guys had just left, but the salesmen were extra helpful. We spoke to one man who was in the middle of a sale in the lot, and he made some calls and directed us inside. There, the receptionist called a salesman to help us, and boy, did Tony do the job! He crawled up in the small space under the steering wheel and located the bad fuses (see Mr. Clifton Park Toyota man, I knew it was just bad fuses!!) and then salesman number one came to check on us and he went in to get new fuses. Tony replaced them for us (it was pretty hot out by now, and he worked up a sweat there in the lot - we really appreciated his goodwill!!) and then would not charge us for his work. We checked to make sure everything was working and we all cheered when the XM came on - even Tony! He even gave us a couple of extra fuses in case we blew them out again. We told him all about our trip and gave him our blog address, so Tony, if you haven't given up on us yet, here's a shout out to you!! We thank you so much for helping us, so if any of you are ever in New Jersey and need a new Toyota, go see Tony at Condit Toyota on Routes 206 and 94 in Newton, NJ.

With tunes blaring, we had renewed energy as we continued south towards Princeton and Trenton. We had heard they were both pretty towns, and of course, Trenton is the capital of New Jersey, so we wanted to at least see the capitol building. And then it rained. HARD! Just as we were getting to Princeton, and all the way to Trenton, it just poured. We finally stopped in Trenton to readjust our route, because we would never make it to Lucy the Elephant if we stayed on the back roads in this downpour. We reluctantly decided to take the interstate, so for me at least, the rest of New Jersey on this day is pretty much a blur. It did stop raining, and we drove down and across the state without incident. Lucy, who is a national landmark, lives in Margate City, just south of Atlantic City. We needed to get to her before the last tour began at 7:30 (thank goodness it was officially summer somewhere up here!) and so we cheered as we pulled into her parking lot at 6:50.

Lucy is a magnificent pachyderm with a storied history. Read all about her at http://www.lucytheelephant.org/ and you'll understand (well, maybe you won't understand, but you'll get the picture, anyway) why we wanted to see her. We had time to take some photos and make a pit stop before our tour began, and then Connor, our tour guide led us up through Lucy's left rear leg. Just inside the door was the original ticket booth, and then we made our way up to the main floor. There were lots of photographic displays of Lucy and her history, and we watched a video about her. At one time, a family had actually lived in Lucy, and we could still see their bathtub. We all got a chance to walk up and look out of Lucy's eyes, and then we all trooped up another set of stairs and outside to the very tip-top of Lucy! From there we had a grand view of the Atlantic and Atlantic City to the north (in the hazy distance). We came back down through Lucy's back right leg, and even saw the peanuts she'd had for lunch that day. We spent some time in the gift shop, where we talked to Joan and Sue (who were working there) and a man from California who was talking about the Wigwams. We of course shared our story about staying at the Wigwam Motel while on Route 66, and then we told them about this year's trip and some of the unusual buildings we'd seen so far. We were all the more determined to make a detour to the Shoe House (that we'd missed in Pennsylvania on the way up) on our way home the next day.

Leaving Lucy, we made our way through some of the Monopoly streets (Ventnor Avenue being the main one) and located our Hampton for the night. It was not our favorite one - in a bit of a seedy area between Pleasantville and Bayside, just outside Atlantic City. We were not at all tempted to venture into Atlantic City, and we felt like we were being pretty daring to go out for dinner. We had only passed a couple of possibilities, and one of them was recommended to us by the people at the front desk, so we decided to try JoJo's Italian Grille just down the street. Turned out to be a wonderful choice - lots of locals were there and they had brick oven pizza and yummy looking desserts. I had a pizza with roasted red peppers, basil, cheese, grilled asparagus, and prosciutto, and Kim had one with prosciutto, cheese, and basil. Both were delicious and we could not eat all of them, especially since we saved room for dessert. We split a piece of homemade cheesecake with cherries - most excellent! Once again, our server's name was Kim, which we thought was kind of funny. We went back to the hotel, worked on the computer and watched TV, and called it a night pretty early. It was hard to believe that we only had a couple of days left on our trip!

Betting that elephants never forget,


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