Saturday, 29 December 2018
Today dawned nice and sunny, though with temps in the 30s and a wind chill, but still I figured this would be the best day to travel. My aim today was the Statue of Liberty. Jersey City is the home of Liberty State Park, so off we went.
I took the New Jersey Turnpike the whole way, partly because it was the most direct route and would still be a 2-hour trip, and partly because it was really the only road that went from approximately here to there. The round trip cost me $42, which I regard as excessive, given the lousy road surface on parts of it - as if they built it and haven't bothered to maintain it.
I've grown accustomed to seeing flat land down here in South Jersey, but when I got up to Elizabeth I was stunned at how completely flat it was. The highway was the highest point in the landscape.
Somewhere about Newark I started seeing what was obviously the New York City skyline. I say "obviously" because there can't be anywhere in the country with that many tall buildings crammed together in one spot. There wasn't anywhere for me to pull over and take a photo, but this internet photo is about the view I had. With the Twin Towers gone, I don't have any landmarks to recognize it by, not having paid attention to NYC building projects in the last couple of decades. But this is it.
The website for Liberty State Park told me to take exit 14B but the online driving instructions told me to take exit 14C. Given the sometimes bizarre instructions I've been seeing from that online program, I followed the LSP website - and learned the online program was right this time. There's an extraordinary amount of industrial activity going on in that same area, with the lousy roads that you often find where heavy equipment has been driving plus lots of standing water from yesterday's rain. A mess. Lots of directional signs but not enough, as it turned out.
I ended up in the ENORMOUS parking lot for the light rail station (probably packed with cars on a workday) and decided to take a break. The dogs had been going for more than 2 hours on rough roads and really wanted a little fresh air. While we were out I found a man in a Security car who gave me only very basic directions to the Statue of Liberty, but given English was quite clearly not his first language, and maybe not his second language either, at least he aimed me in the right direction.
I did what he told me and eventually found myself on a cobblestone street that even beat the Turnpike for bouncy ride. But it led to a great place to see the NYC skyline, and the New Jersey 9/11 Memorial, and the place to buy tickets for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.
I took this photo with the Empire State Building in the center. I just like that building and it gets lost in the usual NYC photos.
The 9/11 Memorial is an unusual design. It's called the Empty Sky Memorial because it focuses attention on the place where the Twin Towers no longer stand. nj911memorial.org This time I took my own photos.
Strong cold wind, but nobody seemed to mind.
I could see I was still a long way from getting a decent view of the Statue of Liberty and one of the park custodians told me the best view was from the windows of their office, but she didn't want to tell me where that was. I finally found the view for myself by going down an unmarked road that turned out to lead both to a view of the statue and also to Ellis Island. Although I didn't know at the time it was Ellis Island and it wasn't until I was driving away that I thought, huh, maybe I missed a bet.
This Ellis Island photo is off the internet because I had indeed missed a bet. Much more elaborate than I'd ever dreamed, given the sad stories I've heard about some people's experiences here.
Except that today was bright and sunny, this internet photo of the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano Bridge was the view I had. I could get nearly this close, but my camera lens (and my lack of ability) make it look about a mile away.
She's much closer to New Jersey than she is to New York, so I looked it up to see who can actually claim her. Very oddly, the island she stands on is part of the borough of Manhattan, but it's surrounded by the waters of Jersey City. Wonder how that deal got worked out.
Since I was technically in Jersey City, I decided to take a look at the "historic downtown" that I kept seeing on the maps. There's a reason it's called historic, which is that it dates back to when Alexander Hamilton helped lay out the street plan. Though it was settled centuries before that: the Leni Lenape were living here for who knows how many centuries and, in the 1600s, sold the land to the Dutch. Jersey City still has a house that dates back to 1649 or something.
|Jersey City city hall|
Jersey City has more than a quarter million residents - NJ's second largest city - and I only saw a fraction of it - the historic fraction. But this downtown area is packed with old row houses - some very attractive - that have fire escapes that obviously still function.
At a red light I saw a building that took up a whole block and was labeled in very large letters: Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. Having never heard of this I looked it up and learned that in 1869, when the founding Mr. Dixon died, it was the largest manufacturer of graphite products (e.g. pencils) in the world. How about that. Now the building is used for apartments.
On the way back south I passed the Newark Airport and thought of the many non-happy hours Momma and I spent there one trip - after which we vowed never to be routed through there again. And yet it's still standing.
The wind that was blowing so much at the Liberty State Park made itself felt on the afternoon trip, and I had some trouble staying on the road. It seemed like the gusts would hit at about the point the road got really rough and I got really nervous several times.
The public radio station for North Jersey is WNYC. At about the point on the southbound trip that the landscape starts becoming agricultural, WNYC can no longer be reached and WHYY picks up from Philadelphia and covers all of South Jersey.
I heard a story that made me realize I'd missed something odd when I was in Vermont. My last couple of nights in the state I stayed in a campground that was probably less than 20 miles from the town of Derby Line, where there's a public library/opera house that was deliberately built on the border between the US and Canada. www.atlasobscura This story provides an excellent example of what's broke and how to fix it, in my opinion. Sorry I missed it, when I was so close.
There was also an interview with someone - don't remember who or why - but at one point he mentioned the death of his sibling and said such an event makes you look at what you've done in your life and ask if these things are really the best you can do with your time. It sounded like they were both middle-aged when the death happened, but something similar happened to me when my sister died. We were both in our 20s, so that evaluation looked a little different than in middle age, but there's no question that her death was a strong influence on how I lived my life. Such an odd thing, really.
I wanted to stop at a grocery store on the way back to the campground, because I'd realized I didn't have any black-eyed peas for New Year's Day (disaster!) and didn't want to be scrambling around for a store on my way to Delaware. Of course I got lost, but I did find a grocery. Turns out lots of other people were shopping for New Year's too and the parking lot was nearly full. The dogs got a short walk squeezed in, but with the long driving trips today and all the people at the places we stopped, their walking got shortchanged.
I'm planning to spend the next couple of days in the campground trying to get this month in New Jersey wrapped up and get ready for next month in Delaware.