Sunday, December 30, 2018

New Jersey - Day 29 - Jersey City

Clarksboro KOA
Saturday, 29 December 2018

(That map labeled "route" is supposed to be in the center of the page and up higher, and I can't for the life of me figure out why it won't happen.  Use your imagination on the route.)

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.  This time I took my own photos.

There were tourists all over this area and most of the parking lots were filled by the time we left.  English was not the predominant language spoken, as far as I could tell, which I thought was interesting.  I heard languages from around the world with people of every ethnic background taking selfies.  A father and daughter asked me to take a photo of them with the skyline in the background, so I was glad I hadn't brought the dogs.

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.
Ellis Island

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
Again, this is off the internet, there being nowhere for me to stop and take a picture, but I liked the looks of it and wanted something to remember it by.

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.

New Jersey - Day 28

Clarksboro KOA
Friday, 28 December 2018

That weather system that dumped feet of snow in the mid-West and feet of rain in the South arrived here.  By contrast, we got off fairly lightly: it rained all day long, without intermission, but it only poured every now and then.  I don't know what the final total was for this area, but probably not more than a couple inches.  Definitely goopy but not all that hard to live with.

Yet another reason to bring rubber boots on a trip like this.  It was hard to find any area of exposed pavement here in the campground because everything was under water - but the trick was to find puddles that weren't inches deep.  The dogs were wading along the roadway here and there.  But I brought plenty of old towels, and the heater worked overtime trying to dry them - and the dogs - out between walks, so it was all okay.

The sort of day that makes you just want to go back to bed and read a book, though I tried instead to get stuff organized around here.  Organization is a lot harder in a tiny space and really requires not having very much stuff to organize.  I thought I brought very little on this trip, but at least a quarter of that turns out not to be needed.  So I keep it in the below-cabin storage area and wait to get back to my storage unit in Texas to dump it.  It's stuff I actually like so I don't want to get rid of it forever - just want to get it out of the RV for now.

I have only 3 days left in New Jersey and am trying to figure out an attraction I can actually get to in the abbreviated daylight this time of year, that stands a chance of not being subject to a shutdown, and then figure out which day I'll go.

I spent quite a bit of time today finding out which campgrounds in Delaware are open during January.  Many more than in New Jersey, it turns out, but all very high-priced except the 5 state campgrounds, which are downright cheap this time of year.  I stayed in 2 of them when I was coming north last spring and remember them as being really nice campgrounds. 

Delaware, like New Jersey, limits the number of pets per campsite to 2, but I had 4 when I stayed there before and nobody said anything so I'm going to chance it again with 3.  I figure as long as the cat stays indoors, how can she be a burden on the campground?  The dogs more than do their share of being a burden, though I do clean up after them - and after other people's dogs too so I don't step in their leavings. 

Anyway, I'll hope to be able to move around a little more than this month, staying in campgrounds in different parts of Delaware (like there's a big distance between them).  And I remember that even in March the campgrounds didn't have many campers, which may be why I skated by with my 4 pets.  Hope that holds in January.

Friday, December 28, 2018

New Jersey - Day 27 - Camden

Clarksboro KOA
Thursday, 27 December 2018

On our early morning walk I know there were deer around because of the reaction of both dogs.  But I chose a route that was the farthest from the woods they were in and we managed to avoid any casualties (either them or me).  But on our second walk before we left the campground, Dexter reacted again like he'd seen or sensed a deer in a different part of the woods.  I couldn't see anything, and actually never did see a deer, but I clearly saw the white tail of one when it moved off.  Very large white patch, as easy to see as a spotlight, though otherwise the deer's body color was perfect for blending in with the trees.

It made me wonder about the evolution of that white patch.  Usually a critter's characteristics evolve for either safety/defense or survival/reproduction, right?  And for the life of me, I can't see how either goal is furthered by having a body that melts in perfectly with the surroundings and yet has this highly visible white patch.  If anybody knows, maybe you could pass it on to me?
today's route
First, today, I took the dogs to their last day of day care here in New Jersey.  Because it'd been more than a week since they were there, Dexter was jumping out of his skin.  Fortunately, the owner knew as well as I did that he'd calm down shortly and be just fine - and sure enough, he was.  I took them earlier than usual and said I'd pick them up later than usual, partly because it was clear they needed it, and partly because it's the last time they can go there and who knows how long it'll take me to find one Dexter will fit in with in Delaware.

From the day care in Pitman, it's a short drive in to Camden.  The main thing I wanted to see, aside from the town itself, was Walt Whitman's House.  But that wasn't going to open until 10:00 so I had some time to look around.

On the way to the Battleship New Jersey, I ended at the waterfront.

To the right of this photo is the New Jersey State Aquarium; to the left is a tiny harbor, a sports arena and the battleship.  Straight ahead is Philadelphia (in the photo) and right behind me is the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex (in Camden). 

The approach is a traffic circle with a centerpiece that I found startling.

This thing is absolutely huge and you can't imagine what a jolt it gives to come up over a small rise and suddenly find yourself face to face with this thing.

I suppose I could have guessed where it came from, but the nice people here put up a sign so we don't have to guess.

I don't know what the real route is to the USS New Jersey - it can't be the route the computer told me to take, because that's not much more than an access road to the small boat harbor (mostly police boats there) and a small parking area for employees only (though I don't know where they're employed).  But there was absolutely no traffic and the only person around was someone on a police boat, so I stopped illegally and put my flashers on and ran down a little side path to take this photo.
You can see I couldn't fit the whole ship into the frame.  The Battleship New Jersey is one of the largest ships ever built, and it's the most decorated ship in the US Navy.  The ship's website has excruciating detail about its deployments (calling it a "she" when I know it's traditional but just plain stupid in this case because did you ever see anything that was less feminine? it's a phallic symbol, pure and simple, so let's compromise on calling it an "it").

They give all kinds of tours and charge quite a bit for the privilege, so there has to be a more accessible route - not to mention parking - but I don't know what it was and anyway didn't want to pay the $17 senior admission fee.  Too cold a day to wander around on a bunch of cold metal.

Camden City Hall
Instead I drove around the area and found the city hall.  This photo is off the internet - the area was very congested and I couldn't even find a place to stop.  The odd thing is, though, it doesn't exactly look like this.  I mean, it does but it's hemmed in throughly by lots of other buildings - this looks spacious, which is the opposite of what it actually looks like.  Wonder where the photographer stashed the other buildings.

The city hall, by the way, is 371' feet tall, is the tallest building in the Philly metropolitan area outside Philadelphia itself, was built in 1928, and the building materials were supplied by the Otis Elevator Company.  (I'm going to guess who installed the elevators inside.)

Right behind the city hall, and plenty big enough to be seen in this photo (except you can't, so odd) is the county administration building, the whole side of which is covered by an amazing mural.  Again I couldn't find anyplace to stop so I could take a picture.  The only one I found online was copyrighted or something - but you can look it up for yourself, and here's the link.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.  Stunning to see it from the driver's seat of the RV. 

Around the corner I saw the sign on an office building that backed up to the city hall: Camden County Office of the Surrogate.  I couldn't imagine an entire building for surrogate parenting, which is the way that word is mostly being used these days, so I looked it up.  It's a court for wills, trusts, adoptions, guardianships, and management of minors' funds.  With all that, no wonder they have a whole building - they must be incredibly busy in a city this big.

Just a block down the street is the court of justice with an attached jail (identifiable by the razor wire on top of the wall).  Fancy newish building, unlike the city hall.

By this time it was getting closer to 10:00 so I went back over to the Whitman House.  I'd already driven around the near neighborhood and couldn't find any open street parking spaces, so I finally drove into a parking lot that advertises a flat rate of $11 for a full day of parking.  I didn't want a full day, but I figured I'd spend a little time in the Whitman House, which is what I'd come for, and there didn't seem to be an alternative.

Except unfortunately, the Whitman House wasn't open.  I asked for advice from a man I'd seen standing nearby the several times I'd passed by, and he turned out to be very helpful.  His name is Dion (though I didn't ask how he spelled it so I may not have it right) - very chatty.  Said he played professional football - and I'm guessing he suffered one too many concussions from the way he talked.  It sounds like he does odd jobs now - he said there'd be a big concert down by the propeller this weekend and he'd go work down there, and he did work for the owner of the Whitman building (that's what he said - the owner - though the website sounds like the government owns it).  He said the owner had just been there - in fact, Dion thought he was still in the house and told me to ring the bell.  But when nobody answered, we walked around to the side and Dion saw the man's car was gone - which meant I was SOL.  Dion told me all the parking spaces were free until New Year's, which is probably why they were all full.  He said all those cars belonged to police officers, and that his brother was one.  After about 15 minutes of this kind of informative chat, he asked if I had 80¢ for a cup of coffee, so I gave him a couple of dollars.  I figured his conversation was easily worth that much to me.
Walt Whitman House close up
Whitman House neighborhood and Dion

I was really disappointed, though, not to be able to see the inside.  Walt Whitman has never been one of my favorite poets, but I was hoping I'd learn enough in his home to be able to appreciate him more.  Maybe so, but not this trip.

I paid the ransom for my RV, and because it was only 10:30 I decided to go back to the campground where I could plug into the electricity while I got things done.  But I got waylaid.

Every time I've driven along I-295 I've seen an exit sign for National Park, with no identifier at all as to which national park.  Since I had the extra time, I decided to check it out this morning. 

Turns out National Park is the name of a town.  It was originally founded in 1895 as National Park on the River, a religious retreat and resort.  It sure doesn't look like anything resort-y now - just a dusty little town on the edge of the Delaware River, though I'm sure it's got some very nice people.

What it also has is the Red Bank Battlefield, which of course I'd never heard of, but the road I was on dead-ended at it so I figured I might as well learn something else.  Turns out it was the scene of something important during the Revolutionary War.

Fort Mercer had been built somewhere around there, with Fort Mifflin being the corresponding outpost on the Pennsylvania side.  The Battle of Trenton (following the 1776 Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware) kept the British from invading Philadelphia then, but they managed to take it eventually in September 1777.  These forts were part of the defenses intended to keep the British ships from using the Delaware River to get supplies and messages from the main force into Philadelphia.  (So hard to imagine a world without the ability of rapid communication.)

These signs explain the defenses the colonists constructed in the river, which were quite effective, as this link explains (in great detail - but it's interesting).     worldhistoryproject/battle-of-red-bank
As far as I can tell, the owners of this house were originally innocent bystanders who just happened to live right next to where soldiers wanted to build a fort.  But as you can see from the signs, the house ended up being used as a field hospital, including for the wounded Hessian commander whose men abandoned him when they retreated. (He was the same commander who lost men at the Battle of Trenton and had been seething with revenge, which shows where a quest for revenge can take you.)

It's a large area with monuments scattered all over, but the wind was blowing and it really was cold (wind chill in the 30s) so I didn't stay.  I thought when I first saw the place that it was a shame I didn't have the dogs - but they had signs all over saying no animals - what a waste, but anyway it saved me from wishing they were here.

So now I know New Jersey has a town (National Park) as creatively named as Pennsylvania's State College.

When I picked the dogs up, they seemed just as hyper as usual and, in fact, insisted on a walk as soon as we got back to the campground.  But then they slept hard, which was good.  And peaceful.  Barely woke up to eat supper.  I need to start trying to find a place in Delaware - both a day care and a campground, actually - 2 places.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

New Jersey - Day 26 - chocolate and candles

Clarksboro KOA
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
today's route
My aim today was the chocolate factory I'd learned about from a billboard I saw along the Garden State Parkway.

The David Bradley Chocolatier is in a light industrial park in a tiny town called Robbinsville, not far from Trenton.  There's nothing photogenic about the outside - the business is one of several businesses in a large warehouse-type building that's one of a couple dozen similar buildings on the property.  But inside is a world of chocolate.

While I was there, the factory was putting a milk chocolate coating on graham crackers and on pretzels, both of which were for sale in the shop.  They also sold milk and dark chocolate coated potato chips, apricot slices, animal crackers, Oreos, and - wait for it - bacon.  I tried some - pretty good chocolate-covered bacon.  They gave out free samples.

They offer chocolate in the shape of ballet slippers, a guitar, a police badge, wine bottles, large and small keys, a solid chunk of Jeep, various tools, a motorcycle, a tractor trailer, a fire engine, a golf bag, dogs and cats and alligators, a teddy bear, a smart phone, a remote control and a credit card.

And lots more.  I gave in to a small bag of dark-chocolate-covered caramels with sea salt.  Turns out salt is really good with chocolate.

No shortage of creativity here.  The story behind the business is your basic American small entrepreneur success story.

In the same industrial park is another small business called Wick It Candle Factory, so I stopped in there too.  That is a different situation altogether because it's not really a factory.  The young woman in the front of the store told me they make candle wicks that they sell to candle-making companies, but she couldn't tell me anything at all about how the wicks are made or what they're made with, so I'm not convinced they make them in that building.

The showroom is full of candles that, according to the young woman, were made by companies that use the wicks made here: Kalamazoo (MI) Candle Co., Milkhouse Candle Co. (the candles are in small replica milk bottles), Max's Wax House (using repurposed beer bottles, candles in half coconut shells (they float!), ScentsAbility (100% donated to charity), and so on.  Some use soy wax, some use beeswax, one uses renewable-resource-based vegetable wax.  All different kinds.

What the young woman mainly seemed to know about is how to make a candle, and they offer candle-making classes.  While I was there, 3 people came in for a class by appointment and 2 others stopped in after going to the chocolate place and decided to stay and make a candle.  I don't really have room in my life for a candle - I know some in RV people have them, but I'm betting those people aren't moving around constantly in a tiny RV with 3 intrusive pets.  Besides, most candles these days are scented, and the scents give me a headache after a bit.

But it was interesting anyway.  Maybe when I'm in Kalamazoo, I'll hunt up the candle company and see how they're made.

On the way back to the campground I was surprised when the traffic came to a standstill on one of the interstates at 1:00 on a Wednesday afternoon.  But this time of year, lots of people are moving around, and this area is a crossroads for people from quite a few states.

For some surely bizarre and unknown reason I thought of Rick Perry, former governor of Texas and early member of the Trump administration and wondered what had happened to him, so I looked him up.  Incredibly enough, he's still in the Trump administration - still the Secretary of Energy.  And for someone who's always liked the limelight, he's managed to keep an extremely low profile for 2 years.  Don't know how on earth he's been getting away with it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

New Jersey - Day 25 - Christmas

Clarksboro KOA
Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Merry Christmas!

My first Christmas on the road, but it was a good one.

I'm pleased to report that my new pan worked very well.  Despite the metal inside the silicone, nothing blew up in the microwave and the coffee cake turned out just fine.  Better yet, because of the silicone, it slid right out of the pan.  It was great.

My wonderful brother and sister-in-law sent me some great presents.
That folding shovel will be great when the weather gets better and Gracie starts digging holes to lie in to get cool.  They've been hard for me to fill back in just with my foot or a stick.  This shovel will make it easy.

And Anna managed to find a Nancy Drew book that I'd never read before.  It was so peaceful being able to sit and read a 1942 version of the world of Nancy Drew.  I loved it.

Anna picks great presents for me.
I hung that blanket in the back window weeks ago to block out the lights from the bathrooms blazing in at night.  I pin it up with clothespins during the day, so I can see out of the window when I drive and so Lily can lie in the sun there.  It's been working well.  But that blanket was originally a Christmas gift from Anna soon after I bought my house in Olympia.  I opened the box on Christmas morning and pulled out that UT blanket and started laughing.  Such a great gift.  And a nice blanket, too.

So I'll be rereading Nancy Drew when I need to feel at peace with the world.

I bought a beef roast and it's in the slow cooker now.  I rarely have beef any more - it's really expensive up in this part of the country and I just haven't been able to justify buying it when chicken and pork are so much more affordable.  But I figured Christmas was for something special. 

We've had sunshine all day so it's not so bad that it was cold enough this morning to freeze shallow puddles.  The dogs and I have had some nice walks.  And they and Lily will be pleased when I give them some decent quality canned food for supper.  They're still playing with the toys they've got so I didn't feel the need to get anything else, but the food will tell them this is a special day.

As Christmas should be.

I hope it's been a special day for everyone else, filled with love and peace.

Monday, December 24, 2018

New Jersey - Day 24 - Christmas Eve

Clarksboro KOA
Monday, 24 December 2018

We got a little lucky today on the weather - a little rain this morning, and clouds and fairly strong winds during the day, but clearing skies toward sunset, which is nice.  The temps were supposed to get into the 40s today but, with this wind, the wind chill is in the mid-30s, making dog-walking not too pleasant.

I've mostly been catching up on my blog today, but I still need to do a few Christmas-prep things.  I found a pan that claims it will go in the microwave - it's silicone covered steel so it's got a firm shape with a flexible covering.   But I'm really nervous about that steel-in-the-microwave thing.

My problem is that I always make my mom's coffee cake for Christmas, but I don't have an oven here - just a microwave.  I found an online microwave coffee cake recipe and am adapting its instructions for Momma's recipe.  I need to put it together the day before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, so that's something that I still need to do today.  Hope that pan works because I don't want to ruin my microwave, or my Christmas morning.  And if it does work, it'll be a Christmas present to me.

I would have expected the campground to clear out as we got close to Christmas but instead, new people have come in.  There are 5 or 6 new RVs here that came in late yesterday.  One of them's from Louisiana.  Must be family that brought them north at this time of year.  Sure couldn't have been the weather.

Unfortunately, all these folks seem to have brought dogs, so when I took my dogs out earlier we could hardly find any road to go on that didn't have a pair of dogs already on it.  The sight of the other dogs gets Dexter way overexcited - I think he wants to run over and check them out like at day care - but I don't let him so instead he turns around and tries to wrestle with Gracie, which alarms the other dog owners because they think he'd have attacked their dogs . . . it's not a great situation.  Maybe they'll leave soon.

I hope tonight is a wonderful Christmas Eve for everyone and that peace will come to the earth.  I do hope that.

New Jersey - Day 23 - Higher Education

Clarksboro KOA
Sunday, 23 December 2018
Our early morning walk today was more eventful than usual: both dogs scented or sensed or saw some deer, which I didn't see until the dogs got so agitated they scared the deer into running, at which point I saw several white tails and a batch of scrambling spindly legs.  There were at least 3 of them, feeding calmly by some of the RVs until our stumbling on them.  Sorry to disturb them and hard to calm the dogs down after that.
These maps don't seem to want to line up for some reason.  The one on the left is the southern part of the route, and the one on the right picks up from its northern end.

My aim today was several institutes of higher learning.  First I set off for Rutgers at the main campus in New Brunswick.  All along the way I saw hundreds of Canada Geese - not just hundreds in the aggregate but hundreds at one spot and then at another and then at another.  There are so many of them they seem to have stopped flying south and are digging in for the winter.

New Brunswick
Rutgers University is the only state university in the US that doesn't include the name of its state.  I learned that factoid playing Trivial Pursuit many years ago with someone from New Jersey on our team.  You never know what information will come in handy in life.  It's an attractive school with many buildings reflecting its age - chartered in 1766 - and many others that show it's still a growing institution.

Old Queen's Building

(It's taken me at least 10 minutes to get this photo arrangement and I'm ready to throw this thing out of the window.)

The Old Queen's Building was the original building for what was then called Queen's College.  The name was changed to Rutgers in 1825 in honor or memory of one of its main benefactors.  The top plaque on the right above tells more about the building and is on the right of the building's door.  The lower plaque is on the left of the door and has interesting information about New Jersey's slave-holding days.

These buildings were on either side of Old Queen's and appear to be similar in age.  The one on the right, though, wasn't built until 1872 to house the physics, military science and geology departments.  Until recently there was a museum in there including a mastodon tusk that was discovered by a Rutgers alumnus.  (This info is on a plaque by the door which, as you might be able to see, is under renovation.)

As I drove out of New Brunswick, which is a pretty decent-sized city, I kept thinking about Emily Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey.  She's the main character in a series of mysteries by Dorothy Gilman.  Mrs. Pollifax got depressed by simply being a 60-something-year-old widow and growing geraniums and doing volunteer work (enough to depress almost anyone), and one day branched out to volunteer to be a CIA spy.  I still find the earlier novels in the series delightful and somewhat inspiring.

My first stop wasn't at the university but at Learning Ally.  This is the new name for what used to be Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, where my momma volunteered for 25+ years.

About 15 years ago, I came here as Momma's guest when she came as a guest herself.  She'd been selected Volunteer of the Year and, along with others around the country, got an all-expense-paid trip for 2 to come to headquarters for a thank-you shindig.

We had a tour of the building here - back then they still used reel-to-reel recording equipment - I still remember all the reels on shelves.  And they gave a gala banquet in New York City with actor Danny Glover as the guest speaker.  Danny Glover himself has dyslexia and told us he had to memorize his parts because he certainly couldn't read them like everybody else could.  (It reminds me of James Earl Jones being a stutterer.)  Anyway, it was a nice trip and I was glad Momma got the recognition.

I went from there to the Princeton campus, but they're quite a bit stuffier there than Rutgers: I couldn't drive onto campus.  A guard at the entrance gate turned me away.  I guess if I knew the campus better I'd know another way in, but in my ignorance, I had to turn away. 

The only building I saw was labeled Princeton University Cogeneration Facility.  That seemed interesting to me, because it sounded like maybe a gym or something that several generations of families could use.  Uh-huh.  Turns out to be the building that generates power for the campus using several sources of power. 

I was a little miffed at not being able to see anything, so you can look up your own photos of the campus if you're interested.  I didn't bother.

I stopped off at a mall down the road because I needed to visit the PetsMart I knew was there.  However, that PetsMart shared a parking lot with Walmart, Best Buy and a half dozen other businesses, and I ended up parking almost a half mile away.

And when I got to the checkout, they told me the pills I got for Gracie cost $52.99.  I nearly choked and said WHAT??  Because I was expecting something closer to $30.  So the very nice clerk checked their online price and discovered it should have been priced $25.74, and she sold them to me for that price, saving me $27.25.  Very nice of her but we'd have never known if I hadn't said something.  What on earth are they thinking to put a markup like that on them.  It's just this store - I've bought them at other stores for the right price, so I know.

And then I got on the highway to go back to the campground and discovered that everybody in New Jersey must have been at a mall shopping, because the road was almost empty.  Nothing like going for a drive 2 days before Christmas.

So today was a little hit-or-miss.  Home run on Rutgers and Learning Ally.  Strike out at Princeton.  Foul ball at PetsMart.  (Heh heh.)

I decided I complained so much about the effects of the shutdown on my activities that I should write to my Congressional representatives, so I've done that.  Told Congressman Sam Johnson and Senators Cornyn and Cruz that I don't agree with the shutdown and, by the way, haven't they ever heard of tunnels? and also, Pres. Trump seems to have lived almost exclusively in apartments so has never had a dog tunnel under a backyard fence so wouldn't know this wall won't work, and also they should switch funding to tracking visa overstays, which is where the real illegal immigration problem is.  Don't expect they'll listen but had to try anyway.

I vowed I wouldn't get political on this trip, and I hope I don't offend anyone else's views, but I'm really irritated about the effects this shutdown is having on my life and, as I explain above, think it's for a reason that's a useless waste of money, so when I get irritated I spout off.  Ignore it if you want.

New Jersey - Day 22 - Paterson

Clarksboro KOA
Saturday, 22 December 2018

The map on the right starts where the one on the left leaves off in the north.  My goal was Paterson, which isn't far from the northern border of the state.  It was just over 2 hours of toll road driving.

Paterson is home to Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, which I'd never heard of but apparently should have.  I was stymied by this idiotic federal government partial shutdown, which includes visitor centers at national parks.  I am thus almost totally dependent on the park's website for information, which I copied here.

  • Paterson Great Falls, America's first planned industrial city, offers historic mills and tours as well as stories of Alexander Hamilton.
  • Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park is site to one of the nation's largest waterfalls. The Great Falls of the Passaic River and the surrounding historic buildings and raceways are the foundation for stories of Alexander Hamilton, the Industrial Revolution, the labor movement and the important contributions of immigrants to the making of America. 
  • Hamilton envisioned Paterson, with its water power provided by the Great Falls of the Passaic River, as America's counterpart and response to the industrial revolution occurring in England during the same period.
  • Immigrants still settle today in Paterson to pursue their versions of Hamilton's vision, creating a diverse and vibrant culture. 
  • The history of the City of Paterson includes its beginnings as the ambitious project of Hamilton and the Society for Establishing Useful Manufacturers (S.U.M.) in 1792 at the Great Falls, the early development of water power systems for industrial use, and the various types of manufacturing that occurred in the District's mills into the 20th Century. 
  • These included cotton fabrics, railroad locomotives, textile machinery, jute, and silk spinning, weaving, and dyeing, among many others.

So here are my own photos of what I saw.
Paterson Great Falls
another view - in the foreground is the S.U.M. building

Passaic River just above the falls

In the Passaic River photo, the falls start where your view of the water ends, just under the bridge.  The S.U.M. building in the wide view is explained in the park's information above.
Hamilton is facing the falls
the park's info about Hamilton from the local viewpoint

Near Paterson is Lambert Castle, which apparently is more of a silk manufacturer's version of what he'd known in Europe than a real castle.  It's open to the public but I wasn't interested enough to take the time and pay the fee.  Near it, though, there's a tower that Gen. Washington's men used as a lookout during the Revolutionary War and, if I'd had more time, I'd have gone looking for it.  That's the drawback of the campground being so far away.

The park was literally right around the corner from Libby's Lunch, my other destination.   As far as I've been able to tell, New Jersey doesn't exactly have a particular culinary speciality.  But many businesses are proud to advertise an item called Hot Texas Wieners (though some spell it Weiners).  And there's a variation on it called Ripper Dogs.  They can be found all over the state - I passed a business in Salem down on the Delaware River southwest of here that advertised them (the Hot Texas Weiners) - but the claim for point of origin comes from Paterson at Libby's Lunch.
Libby's Lunch, since 1935

my Hot Texas Weiner

The inside looks like a diner, and I'm betting that place is the original 1935 home of the business.  Nice people.  And that Hot Texas Weiner is, as you can see, nothing more than a chili dog with onions - that's what they gave me for "the works."  That's it.  That's New Jersey's claim to culinary fame.

Ripper dogs are hot dogs that are cooked in deep fat until the casings "rip" open, and then they're served on a bun with pickle relish.  Really.

Well, what I can say is that my chili dog was good and cost only $3.35.  But I'm not going in search of a deep-fat-fried hot dog, not even for the experience.

There was a very strong wind all day today, with gusts that blew me around on the highways and kept me in the far right lane going no more than 60 mph.  Walking the dogs in the falls area and along the Passaic River (out of sight on the far left of the Libby's Lunch photo), was certainly brisk and not particularly pleasant for me, but the dogs deserved it after the long drive.

Even though we left the campground soon after 8:00, it was 1:00 when we'd finished lunch.  I figured I needed to start back, since a 2 hour drive would put me back at the campground not long before dusk, when driving gets tricky for me.  So between the short daylight and the distance of the campground, my sightseeing is definitely curtailed this time of year.

And now with this govt. shutdown, I'm even more restricted.  Not far from Paterson is the Pres. Grover Cleveland Birthplace, run by the National Park Service.  He's the only president born in New Jersey and I know nothing about him and would really like to visit this place.  But even if I had time to see it today, why bother going over there, or making a separate 2-hour trip, just to see the outside with little chance of learning anything.  Very disappointing.  I guess I can hope the shutdown will end before the month does, but it's not something I can expect.  Disappointing and irritating.

On the Garden State Parkway, I passed a building that looked like the headquarters for Nylabone.  But I see on their website they're located over near Asbury Park (take note, Springsteen fans), so I don't know what the building I saw was for.  It said Nylabone in really big letters, though.

On the drive up on the New Jersey Turnpike (I spent more than $30 in tolls on this trip, just trying to shorten the driving time), at one point I was passed by at least 20 cars, all with Maryland license plates.  It was weird, especially because I was seeing plates from all around NJ but almost none actually from NJ.  But when I switched to the Garden State, getting closer to the population centers I saw almost exclusively NJ plates.  Wonder where they'd been.

You may remember on the drive south my first day here I mentioned passing some huge cemeteries.  Well, today I got caught in a traffic problem that brought us all to a standstill right in that area, so I got proof.
That was only one of them - there were others, and on both sides of the road.  Just huge.  But I guess people have been dying in New Jersey for a long time, but it doesn't have enough land to just start a new cemetery, like we seem to do in Texas.  Or like the very small cemeteries I ran across in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

I passed a regular highway sign saying, "Speed Limit 55 mph," and then it added "Conditions Permitting."  That made me wonder if people tried to argue their way out of trouble caused by going too fast on icy roads, by claiming they were only going the speed limit.

Both going and coming I saw exit signs for "The Oranges" which surprised me, for some reason.  New Jersey is home to Orange, West Orange, East Orange, South Orange, and I thought I saw an exit for North Orange, though I can't find it on the map.  Why bother writing all that on a sign when you can lump them all together.

New Jersey is the only US state where county officials are called Freeholders.  Each county has a Board of Chosen Freeholders.  I've seen these signs around here and there, and saw one again today at the falls where a sign told me the Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders was responsible for maintenance of "the open space" which, presumably was the pleasant area around the parking lot at the falls.

I heard on NPR that I'd missed something in Connecticut I'd have liked to see: Melissa and Doug Toy Company.  It's in Wilton, down near Bridgeport, which is a part of the state I didn't get to until I left it.  I'm betting this company would have ranked up there with the teddy bear company I visited in Vermont for smiles. 

In one way this time of year is good for me: the campgrounds always have room for me, and the number of campers who have dogs is limited.  This makes it easy to walk my dogs without worrying about encountering trouble around every corner.  But the hard part is that so few campgrounds are open that my ability to travel to see things is much more limited.  That's what happened to me in Connecticut, and it's happening again in New Jersey.  RI being so small it wasn't a problem, and I'm hoping it'll work out like that in Delaware, too.  But I'll be in Maryland in February, and though it's a small state, it's spread out and may give me the same problems I'm getting here.  Well, we'll see.

New Jersey - Days 20 & 21

Clarksboro KOA
Thursday, 20 and Friday, 21 December 2018

Thursday began with the TV weather person saying, "Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning" (he really said that) and showing a live camera shot of sunrise at Cape May with a stunning red sky.  It was beautiful.  But hard to seem anything but ominous after that introduction.

And sure enough, we spent much of these last 2 days dealing with some of what much of the eastern half of the US has been dealing with: rain.  We only got about 1½" here, nothing like the 4" my cousin Karen got east of Jacksonville, FL.  But it came down steadily for much of these 2 days and was enough to turn much of the campground into a mud puddle.

Friday evening I realized that beautiful full moon I could now see was happening on Winter Solstice.  Does that have any significance?  Other than lighting the way for winter to officially begin, I mean.

This afternoon I went over to take a shower and, after waiting in vain about 15 minutes for hot water to show up, I got dressed again and went back to the RV to get my phone and called the office for help.  The Help discovered that a breaker switch that was unlabeled had clicked off for unknown reason, and it turned out to be the key to heating up water for the showers.  They told me to give it an hour because it was a really big water tank that had to heat up.  A real nuisance but I did eventually get a nice hot shower and the hope that I saved anybody else from the inconvenience.

I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out destinations for sightseeing and highway routes for getting there.  I can't just assume anything is open this time of year and have to check each place for availability, is part of what takes so long.

Mostly I just puttered around and got little stuff done, in between rain bursts and dog walking.  The dogs don't much like being in the rain but are willing to put up with it over the boredom of sitting inside for hours on end.  Then I get to dry them off, and then dry out the towels I used to dry them off.  It's fun for the entire family.

And the only reason I stayed in camp rather than going sightseeing is that rain.  Given the forecast and what I'd seen happening in other parts of the country, I just didn't want to try driving in it or try seeing sights through it.  Seemed better to waste the time in safety than on the road with these drivers.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

New Jersey - Day 19 - Pine Barrens

Clarksboro KOA
Wednesday, 19 December 2018

today's route
I wanted the dogs to have another day of day care, which meant I'd need to find a route that wasn't too far from there so I could pick up the dogs before I started to lose daylight.  Ever since I first heard of the Pine Barrens, I've wondered what on earth that meant, so today I went to find out.

I was a little nervous about driving at first - especially over bridges - because it was about 25° this morning, the ground was a beautiful silver from all the frost, and most standing water was completely frozen.  But the sun was trying hard, though the wind never allowed it to get truly warm - but at least the frost didn't affect the roadways when I was out there.

Part of the drive was along Route 55, the road I took to Cape May.  A home along the road has lifesize cutouts of Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby in "White Christmas" attire - makes me smile to see them.  I love that movie.

All over the state are branches of a business called Wawa, and I finally looked it up.  It's from a family that started a dairy in 1902 in Pennsylvania, opened a Food Market in 1964, then expanded to New Jersey (1968) and Delaware (1969), opened a store in Orlando, FL (2012), started selling gasoline somewhere along the way, and now has more than 500 stores.  It's partly employee owned, considered a convenience store, and has an in-store bakery and deli.  Apparently, customers are in love with their coffee.

It was an actual news item on TV a few mornings ago that Wawa was opening a new store in downtown Philadelphia with no parking attached, intended for walk-in customers, apparently.  People were wildly excited and waiting outside the door to be among the first.  I guess sometime I'll have to stop and check it out - but coffee?  A convenience store?  Guess I'll have to see for myself.  By the way, I have no idea at all where the name came from - no clue from their website - nothing like the name of the original dairy owner.  A mystery.

Hammonton is a sizeable town near the Pine Barrens and calls itself the Blueberry Capital of the World.  And I can say from personal observation that there are fields of blueberry plants for miles around.
a sea of red flowing into the distance
Small businesses and farms all around this area.  One of them is Little Buck Organics with a website that makes me think schooling wasn't a priority in this family.  But I'm sure their blueberries are as tasty as they claim. 

On down the (state) Pine Barrens Byway to Batsto Village, a restored historic village located in Wharton State Forest, part of the Pine Barrens.

My most pressing question at Batsto was where on earth did the name "Pine Barrens" come from?  Did the word barren mean something different 300 years ago than it does now?  And I got my answer before I even got inside the visitor center.

Apparently, barren meant exactly what I thought it meant, even 300 years ago.  The first settlers thought the land was too sandy and boggy to farm.  That was before they thought about farming blueberries, which are native to the area and thrive in this soil.

This land sits on top of the Cohansey Aquifer, as deep as 300' in some places, with a water table that is just inches below ground.  Great for some plants and animals, lousy for others.  There's a Pine Barrens Tree Frog, that lives here exclusively.  There are still vast forests of pitch pine and post oak that cover a large part of New Jersey.  Take another look at the map of today's route and you'll see what I mean.

This area was once used by the Leni Lenape (pronounce all 5 syllables) tribe, who sold some of the land to European settlers.  The name Batsto has been used for this area even before a village was founded here.  The name may have derived from the Swedes, who settled here in 1640 and use the word "badstu" to mean "bathing place."  Or it may have come from the Leni Lenape themselves, who lived here since about 1000 BC and use a similar-sounding word that also means "bathing place." 

What Batsto Village and museum are commemorating is basically a company town.  The Batsto Ironworks was established in 1766, which was the beginning of recorded history for the area.  The family that started it also built a company village for the workers.  By the 1840s, the iron ore got scarce, but silica was plentiful so the company switched focus to glassmaking until poor management caused it to close in 1867.

There are many of these little villages all over the state that no longer exist, but the State of New Jersey has made attempts to salvage some of them, which is where Batsto Village came from.
among the many buildings still standing at the village
I skipped over most of the family history which the museum was full of, but was very impressed with some family artifacts.
quilt made by the Stewarts
hand-made lace bonnet, 1840s

Robert Stewart was the manager for the company for many years, and his wife Margaret was an entrepreneur herself.  Together they made this Rising Sun quilt, which was rescued from a house fire in 1874.  Mrs. Stewart made the lace bonnet, which I hadn't even noticed until I tried to get a closer view of the quilt for my friend Deb and suddenly saw it in my viewer.  Gorgeous work.

Interesting little museum.

New Jersey doesn't seem to have a public radio network of its own, probably because it's almost smack on top of WHYY/Philadelphia, which can broadcast all over this small state.  But it does produce some its own shows during the day and, in one of them, I learned about that billboard I saw the other day about how 30-something NJ municipalities had banned the use of marijuana. 

Actually, what I learned is that the state of New Jersey is considering legalizing recreational marijuana, with its use to be decided by each local governing body.  Apparently these places were taking preemptive action.  Sounds to me like it'll be a mess when they start implementing such a law, but it also sounds like they're having trouble getting this bill through the legislature and local control was a compromise position.  It'll be interesting.

I was the beneficiary of semi-modern technology today: my insurance agent, who I'd been exchanging emails with about an upcoming RV insurance deadline, called me to say today is the day to pay.  Not trusting online payments, and knowing my VISA account would reject a $2,100 charge (the price shot up for being a live-aboard), I paid her by check over the phone.  Amazing what can be done these days.

On my drive back to Glassboro and Pitman I passed a sign telling me the Trump National Golf Club entrance was this-a-way.  So I looked it up and, sure enough, there are 3 Trump National Golf Clubs in New Jersey and the one I passed is the one in Philadelphia, except it's about a half hour drive away from the city limits but - hey- so what.

And I was very fortunate to see Santa Claus - yes, all dressed in red and white - loading up a white SUV.  Really.  I couldn't believe that was what I was seeing but I was.  Hopeful, somehow.

Dexter did very well in day care today, but what with the holidays there's only one more day they'll be able to go before we leave the state.  Well, at least we had this much.