Saturday, September 26, 2009

Leaving New Jersey

Images from Ocean View, NJ:

There was some interesting flora...

...and fauna.

We left too soon to see the full color of fall...

...but enjoyed sunsets at the side of the lake.

And of course, I always have to take a photo of some nice pink clouds; the sliver of a crescent moon was just an added touch.

I find that I liked the eastern shores (see John, I remembered, shores not beaches) of New Jersey quite a bit. We had beautiful weather for the most part, and once we got further south we escaped the mosquitoes (or the campground sprayed for them perhaps). There were marshes, bays, ponds, lakes, rivers and of course the mighty Atlantic to enjoy, scenic beach towns, touristy Atlantic City, lovely parks. For sightseeing, we enjoyed the fact that the price of diesel is 20 cents a gallon cheaper here in NJ.

The downside? Paying $3.75 in the truck to cross a bridge when cars paid $1.00. Driving up and down the Garden State Parkway pulling the trailer or just driving the dually truck cost us almost $60.00 over a two week period in toll fees. A bottle of vodka cost $9 more in NJ than it would in Ohio. It would be very expensive to live in this state. Unless you drove a small car, used back roads exclusively and didn't drink. Ahem. Kidding.

Complaining aside, I can see us returning for another visit. Mile for mile New Jersey had more roadside farm stands than we've seen anywhere else with some good apples and peaches. We passed on their corn because we're seriously prejudiced; ain't nobody has sweet corn like Ohio sweet corn. Don't even try to argue with me on this one because I won't listen. Unless you're from Indiana, which has the same kind of wonderful, rich soil pushed down by the glaciers eons ago as Ohio. And they have the ocean and miles of sandy shoreline, a fact too hard to resist. I think we'll be back.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cape May Point Visit

The rains cleared up by mid-morning yesterday so Denny and I drove down to the Cape May Point State Park at the very end of New Jersey. Entrance is free and what a wonderful park the state has here!

Naturally, the first thing you see upon entering the park is the Cape May Lighthouse. Built in 1859, you may climb the 199 steps to the top for $7 per person. We didn't make the climb, choosing instead to wander over to the large platform filled with people.

That platform turned out to be the bird watchers platform. The park with its freshwater and brackish water marshes and heavy tree and marsh grass cover is a stopping off place for raptors and myriad types of birds migrating south for the winter. Bats and butterflies also stop here in their migrations. The park provides bird watching volunteers and the free use of binoculars for those interested in learning about the birds they are viewing from the platform. I've never seen such huge telephoto lens and expensive camera set ups in all my life--there are some serious birders who come here!

Standing on the platform and looking towards the ocean we saw a massive structure, so Denny and I wandered down a trail to see what it was. What it was is an abandoned WWII bunker used to protect the New Jersey shoreline. Originally, this bunker sat 900 feet back from the beach. As you can see from the picture, erosion is slowly reclaiming the land and eventually the bunker will self-destruct when the pilings can no longer support its weight.

Raptors weren't flying around on our visit, but there were swans on several of the marsh ponds. It was hard to get of shot of them as it was feeding time and they spent most of their time with their heads below the water, like the two on the left.

Yesterday's temperatures were in the high 70s and the air was thick with humidity; a perfect day for enjoying gentle breezes on the beach at the park. According to the park's website during the summer dolphins are a common sight along the beach.

I don't know if this pilot was showing off or just playing around, but he was flying awfully low over the bunker as we walked the beach.

I'm never able to figure out how people find something like this baleen whale jaw bone and know what it is. I would have mistaken it for a large piece of driftwood.

Many cities have festivals, but few would have one dedicated to the Darb's favorite vegetable (NOT!!)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Raining on My Parade

We have a noon tee time today which is when the showers we are currently experiencing are supposed to change to thunderstorms. That's not a good time to be waving a metal club around in the air. So golf in New Jersey might just have to wait until our next visit since the price to play goes back up tomorrow. We refuse to pay $180 for the two of us to play golf. Ohio golf courses spoiled us for life for being able to play great golf courses at extremely reasonable prices.

Yesterday Denny and I spent another afternoon with his cousin Wanda. Denny's culinary creation this time was a Dutch appie pie. The good news is, we left the pie with Wanda. The bad news is, we left the pie with Wanda. Which is one reason why Wanda is smiling in this picture.

It has been an enjoyable stay here in Ocean View, NJ. The campground has cleared out quite a bit since we arrived so it's quiet and peaceful. The maintenance staff has spent the past two days emptying out the water park's pool so I guess that means the camping season is officially over in this part of the state.

I try to find something to photograph each time Patches and I wander around outside (it's not always a "walk" when we go out). This time it was a spider that was crossing from one spike of sea grass to another. I missed that, but caught him going from one leaf to the next after he landed.

The diva sometimes just sits, surveying her domain.

So far, East coast sunsets haven't been very exciting. There hasn't been a lot of humidity in the air, therefore few clouds have popped up in the evening to reflect the setting sun. This is all I've gotten so far.

Very bright security lights here in the campground preclude any night time shots of the sky, but I did catch a sliver of the moon at dusk the other day. I've still got a lot to learn about my new camera, even though I've had it for several months now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Playing Catch Up in Atlantic City

Denny and I made a day of it in Atlantic City today. We were meeting friends for lunch so we left at breakfast time to make our way up the coastline at a leisurely pace, stopping to have breakfast on the way. We marveled at the huge homes in Margate, NJ just south of AC and reveled in yet another sunny day.

Since we were way early to meet our friends, Denny and I wandered the Boardwalk and the beach, finding some beach glass but no sharks' teeth. We hit a couple of the casinos and browsed through the very pricey shops in Caesar's Pier Shops, just missing the lighted water fountain show. Lunch was at Carmine's where one salad and one entree and one dessert would serve 8 people (I'm not kidding, I brought home five 6"x 9" pans of leftovers). Excellent food, excellent service, very pricey but worth the extravagance.

Denny and John did a lot of reminiscing, Nancy and I talked about everything under the sun. Denny, John and Nancy knew each other from Denny's days in Cleveland (well before my time) but we have a wonderful time when we visit. I wish I had scanned the picture of the softball team that Denny gave to John today that was from their time together back then; oh they were young!

It was one of those perfect days that makes you glad to be alive.

Although the day was warm and sunny, most people were on the Boardwalk rather than on the beach.

These palm trees looked so sad and pathetic; we're used to the much healthier ones at Myrtle Beach and down in Florida.

I think this is the amusement park known as the Steel Pier; this is a zoom shot taken from the Pier Shops by Caesar's.

I keep forgetting that a picture that looks good on the LCD screen of my old camera sometimes looks better than it does on the bigger screen of the computer. I thought our waitress had taken a decent shot of the four of us, but I was wrong. However, the blurriness does soften the wrinkles, so that's a good thing, right?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Playing Tourist

With rain predicted from Wednesday on, Denny and I knew Tuesday was the day to see Atlantic City. It was a pleasant and relatively short drive from our campground, but once we got into Atlantic City things got a bit confusing. The next time around I would research where I wanted to go a bit more in advance of our actual trip, because in heavy traffic it's hard to make last minute decisions on which way to turn, especially here in New Jersey where most turns go off to the right to prevent left turn traffic tie-ups. I guess it's effective, but it surely is confusing at times. We picked a casino to walk to, apparently parking illegally but when all the parking garages have a height restriction of 6'6" and your truck is close to 7' tall, you park where you can. Neither Denny nor I could find slot machines that we really liked, so after an hour we left, with $30 more in our pockets than we arrived with. So we asked a local gendarme how to get to the Boardwalk, found a nice place to eat and allowed Mr. Trump to buy our lunch for us. We browsed a few shops, enjoyed the view of the ocean, people watched for a while and then called it a day.

We wanted to tour the Absecon lighthouse but after Labor Day they are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Just our luck. According to the website, the lighthouse is the tallest in New Jersey and the third tallest lighthouse in the country, having 228 steps. The St. Augustine lighthouse has 219 steps in comparison, and that was a lot of steps to climb. You'll note that it's also no longer close to the ocean.

I think at this point we were at the northeast point of town, far from the casinos but on the Boardwalk. What a difference from "downtown". Here the Boardwalk was deserted except for a couple fishermen and a lone sun worshipper.

Downtown near Martin Luther King Blvd. the Boardwalk was a whole different story, but still uncrowded. I don't know if that's a sign of the economy or if Atlantic City normally clears out this much after Labor Day. But it was nice not to have to fight crowds of tourists.

Sometimes I do things that make Denny uncomfortable, like walking up to a complete stranger and asking him to take our picture. In talking to the gentleman after he acquiesced, it turns out he has two brothers, both doctors, who work in Ohio. One is employed at a hospital in Cinci, where Denny is from and the other works nights in the ER of the hospital in Wilmington, OH which is where I went to be treated for my cat bite wounds. He was absolutely amazed that we were from Ohio and had even been to the hospital where his brother works. We chatted for a while and then went on our way; he was in the process of walking the entire boardwalk. It's really surprising how many of these "small world" moments we have in our travels. I guess the world is not such a big place after all.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Adding Another State to the Map. Finally.

The last new state Denny and I added to the list was in September of 2006 when we spent time in lower West Virginia. The summer of 2007 was spent in Ohio working on a garden for Denny's dad, then came last summer with another garden and then the death of Denny's father and then this year with my mother's illness and subsequent death. When we did travel, we returned to some familiar areas and some new places, but still in states we had already visited. So it's kind of fun to be able to put color in another state on the "States We've Visited" map down at the end of the page (did you forget it's down there?)

Although New Jersey is a brand new state to us, we still have regular and unexpected maintenance chores to do. A leaky toilet meant a long drive to find a Camping World store since our toilet is a different brand than what most local RV dealers carry. Since we had to go so far, we decided to make a side trip to the beach, visiting Island Beach State Park. And as it just so happened, there were a couple of geocaches in the area, so we added a couple of those to our list too. A nice lunch overlooking Barnegat Bay and our day was complete. This is what traveling by RV is all about.

There were so many cotton-tops (us old white haired folks) here on the beach, loaded for bear with beach chairs, coolers, colorful umbrellas and books. By the looks of some of the folks here, they spend hours here daily as they were brown as nuts. I was jealous.

Following a trail to a geocache we discovered wild blueberries among the brambles and brush. Too green to eat, though.

Prior to going off-trail to locate a geocache, we walked to the end of the trail to take a look at Barnegat Bay on the other side of Island Beach State Park. I would think it would be so peaceful to be on a sailboat, as long as you weren't the one in charge of piloting it or handling the sails. I'd make a great passenger!

I think this fox would have approached us for a handout if a parked truck with two very large dogs wasn't near by. They created quite a ruckus and startled him away. Since he was within the state park boundaries I have a feeling he's more than a little used to the beach goers.

Round a curve on US 9 south of Tuckerton, NJ and you'll come upon a 20 foot tall champagne bottle. According to Roadside America the Renault Winery put up several of these huge champagne bottles in the 1920s, but there is no signage or any information at all around this one that's now painted a solid white. It would be interesting to know if this was just an advertising gimmick for the winery or what their purpose was.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Real Life

Little things have been happening since we left Ohio. What is the picture? It's the PVC pipe that holds all of our smaller one inch diameter PVC pipes that we use as sewer hose. Or rather what was left of it after a screw holding the strap iron brace sheared off and caused the 6 foot section of 4 inch pipe to drag on the roadway for an untold number of miles, grinding it away until it was about 3 1/2 feet long and all of the inner pieces fell away somewhere along the road. It was worrisome only because it bothered us that somewhere behind us on the freeway someone had been dodging pieces of pipe. As we had no sewer hookups in Pennsylvania the loss of the sewer pipes wasn't an immediate problem, just something that had to be replaced during the week. It turns out we also had to replace three more of our roof vent caps that had been knocked off by tree branches at a campground in Ohio. And this week while replacing one of those caps Denny noticed that the rubber "skin" on our roof is starting to bubble, meaning it is coming loose in spots. The two of us are going to have to start figuring the cost of repairing some of the things that are starting to go wrong with the trailer with the expense of a new one.

Living in a RV is different from living in a stick built house, but that doesn't mean you don't have maintenance issues, that things don't break down. They do, possibly more so than in a regular house, because our house moves, bounces and flexes with every ride down the road. And because the items inside are downsized and specialized, when they do go wrong it's usually more expensive to repair or replace that item than it would be in a "real" house. What we have to do is figure out whether our trailer, due to our habit of moving every one to two weeks rather than sitting in one place for 4 to 6 months at a time (excluding the past year of course) is going last a few more years structurally so that it would be worth putting in the money to put a new rubber skin on the roof. We like our trailer, it suits our needs and has most of what we want in a RV. It's time to list the pros and cons. But first some sightseeing...I don't want to think about this stuff yet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Crazy to Quiet

It was time to say good-bye to Steve, Angela and our granddaughters and turn the truck to the southeast to head for the mountains. We weren't real sure about spending the Labor Day weekend in the Poconos, but it was a "free" member park and it had us heading in the right direction for our planned stay in New Jersey, so that's where we went.

And it was indeed crazy on the two lane mountain roads in the tourist area near East Stroudsburg. Traffic was bumper to bumper as everyone was apparently left work early to head to the mountains. We finally pulled into our site in the late afternoon (a whole story in itself in the tight turns and confines of this heavily treed and narrow laned campground) and sat down gratefully with a refreshingly tart alcoholic beverage. Not long after we arrived a tent city sprang up next to us, full of happy campers--it was a joyful noise. The folks were loud, boisterous and happy and we enjoyed their company, but we enjoyed it even more when everyone had left by early Monday evening and we had the entire upper tier of the campground to ourselves.

As you can see, the tree cover was heavy so we were unable to put up our satellite dishes for our Internet and TV services. Luckily the campground provided basic cable TV so we were able to catch the local news and Denny could watch football. I was able to catch up on my journal which I had sadly but understandably neglected over the past few months. It was relaxing to look out our large living room window at the rear of the rig to see the woods and large patches of graceful ferns.

We used the time for chores, as we had been in the area in 1999, visiting Bushkill Falls. Denny had to replace a roof vent that got knocked off by low hanging branches at the campground in Brunswick, Ohio but we also took some time to donate our money to the local economy by visiting the Mount Airy Casino. Alas, our attempts to win enough money to buy a new trailer were in vain, but we had fun.

Patches enjoyed herself once everyone left, having the entire upper section of the campground to explore without fear of strange dogs and noisy children. The mosquitoes didn't bother her with her thick coat of fur and for the most part, my SkinSoSoft oil and water mixture kept the little buggers off me for the length of a medium long walk.

What I discovered on our walks was if I walked carefully enough and slowly enough on the gravel driveway I could get within a couple hundred feet of the area of the woods where three yearling (?) does slept and grazed, which allowed me to use the zoom lens at its maximum to get a shot. The trees were so thick, however, that only one picture came out as the camera had a tendency to focus on the trees rather than the deer. That's something I still have to figure out.

Before we left we checked out another of our member parks in the area and discovered that that one was much more spacious, had full hook ups and fewer trees so if we need to pass by this way again, we'll stay there. But it was a good week all in all.

And now we're in New Joisey, although Denny's cousin who lives here said people don't really talk that way. I got news for ya--some of the ones we've heard so far do!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Here Briefly

The campground charges $5 a day for wi-fi so I passed on that. We've been driving up and down the main drag trying to find an unsecured wi-fi access without luck today so we gave up and came home after losing some money at the local casino. After taking Patches for a brief walk (all the Labor Day weekend party-ers have gone back to Jersey) I decided to bring out the laptop for grins and giggles while Denny was replacing the sewer hose holder (a story for another day) when low and behold, I discovered that one of the houses in the plat near the campground has an unsecured wireless router running. So for the moment, I have wi-fi, although the mosquitoes are making it tough to stay outside. I think they are going to win and I'm going inside.
But we're okay and praying for fewer trees when we arrive at the next campground on Friday. New Jersey will be a new state for us, although Denny's cousins has already warned us to be aware of its crazy drivers. If the ones we've seen visiting the Poconos are an example, she's right--they're insane.

More to follow....

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Too many trees for our satellite dishes, no free wi-fi at the campground so don't look for us this week--we have to drive too many miles to find free wi-fi. We're in the Poconos, don'cha know?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

One Down

....and still not bored.

The old fabric stained when you spilled clear water on it; what are RV designers thinking when they buy this material? Gah. So the change is from Art Deco to Native American. Which in a way can be Art Deco-ish. Or not.
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