Archive for the 'Adventures and Fun Places' Category

Cruising NJ

D&R canal, taken from the towpath in Lambertville, NJ

By now you’ve probably realized that I like driving about NJ, especially when the weather is warm enough for the red convertible with the top down! I took a week of vacation in September, just before Rosh Hashanah. I convinced my sister that she needed to join me in our car when I went cruising. “Our car” requires an explanation before she jumps in here. ๐Ÿ™‚ It is true – the car is part of our inheritance from our mother. Yep, our 80+ year old mother drove a red convertible. Obviously we both wanted the car once my mother stopped driving, so we put both of us down as owners. The truth is that we each have the car for approximately half the year. I have it from April through October, and my sister has it November through March when it is wintering in her garage. *grin* What? You don’t think that is equitable? *shrug* Works for me!

Beautiful purple berries along the towpath

Back to the storyline here… My first day off we decided to head to New Hope, PA to check out the fun stores there and have lunch along the Delaware. To get to New Hope we pass through Lambertville, NJ first. Lambertville has lots of fun stores and restaurants as well. We made a sudden decision to stop there first. I made the last possible turn before heading over the bridge to PA. We parked the car on one of the main streets and began to walk.

D&R canal, from Bridge St, Lambertville NJ

We didn’t get very far. We were parked in the first spot from the corner. We turned the corner and we were at the 5 and Dime, also known as A Mano Galleries. Quoting from their website: “A Mano, Contemporary Craft Gallery, in Lambertville, NJ,  is known for its unique collection of jewelry, pottery, home decor, hand-painted furniture and local artisans.  We carry products for men, women and children, specializing in American crafts.” This store is SO MUCH FUN!!!! It was like being at some of our favorite craft shows. As you know, there have not been any craft shows inside or out since the beginning of March. Walking into the 5 and Dime was like coming home. It was filled with all sorts of fun and beautiful items, functional and decorative, things that could be worn, things you could sit on, things you could display. I have no idea how much time we spent there. I DO know how much money I spent, because I fell in love with a hand-made copper and metal watch. I love watches. I’m not one who lives with her cell phone in one hand. I like to put it away and use it when I need to do something. I’d much rather have a beautiful watch on my wrist for checking time. And now I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sounds like my life ๐Ÿ™‚

We were laughing and chatting with the proprietor, Carla Riley. Her personality alone made being there worthwhile. Besides my watch I found a robe. I mention this because I’ve been needing a new robe for months, if not longer. Nothing I saw in the department stores appealed enough to buy. I love this robe. This is exactly the robe I wanted – a floral pattern, the right length, the right material. As we all say nowadays – “it” must bring you joy. This robe brings me joy LOOKING at it, and even more wearing it. Joy is good. I also found a sign that now hangs in my breakfast room. It seemed to summarize my life quite well.

Bull’s Run Recreaction Area, Raven Rock, NJ

We cruised about a few more shops, including a thrift store. I believe my niece now has a nice pair of boots. ๐Ÿ™‚ One of the requirements for lunch was that the restaurant must serve cocktails. Many restaurants had been recommended to us, but only one met the cocktail requirement – Lambertville Station. They were set up for outdoor dining (including having moved the ‘front desk station’ outside. We got a table outside, along the canal. (The Delaware & Raritan Canal is between the Delaware River and the NJ shore line.) We had a lovely lunch, then strolled back to the car, walking along the canal tow path. Many private properties border the tow path, with beautiful gardens, and porches. Most are screened from passersby by trees, hedges and fences, but you catch tantalizing glimpses as you walk.

From the pedestrian bridge, Lumberville, PA, looking South towards NJ (Bull’s Island)

We did indeed finally drive over the bridge into PA, but we weren’t hungry and we were “shopped out” so we kept driving. I recreated my June escape, crossing back to Stockton, NJ at Dilly’s corner, and then heading north on Rt. 29 to Bull’s Island Recreation Area in Raven Rock. I showed my sister the lovely green area along the canal, and we went out on the foot bridge. She loved it as much as I do. As daughters of an engineer, we are both fascinated by locks and enjoyed reading the details. After that we tried to “get lost” in Hunterdon county. *grin* I had a paper map in the car (we also both LOVE maps) and I told her to navigate us home without getting on any road that had more than 2 lanes. There were definitely times I was humming the theme to Deliverance because some of the roads we found were, well, less than 2 lanes. ๐Ÿ™‚ Ultimately we made it home (safely) and agreed it had been a great day.

Delaware River, looking north, NJ on right, PA on left

September Shore Trip

Ocean City, NJ Boardwalk

My sister and I snuck in one last trip down the shore while it was still (nominally) summer. There was a craft show and farmers’ market down in Ocean City, NJ. One of my favorite artists/vendors was going to be there and I wanted to see if she had any new tops for me. I was taking the whole week off as vacation, so driving the 2 hours to Ocean City was do-able.

It was a tiny market, but Gretchen was there. My sister and I both ‘scored’ new tops, as well as some new face masks, and some produce. The market is only a few blocks from the boardwalk. We moved the car closer and walked up. Ocean City has a HUGE boardwalk, with marked lanes. It designates direction, and lanes for bicycles and for joggers. It was quite impressive. Of course I have to add that the vast majority of folks on the boardwalk were NOT following the lanes. ๐Ÿ™‚ On the other hand, there weren’t that many of us that it was a problem. Although the calendar said summer, it felt more like early fall, it was the middle of the week, so folks were either at work, school or doing some fall activity. You can see that there were still hardy souls enjoying the sun, sand and surf.

We strolled the boardwalk, people-watching and stopping into some of the stores that were open. Many stores and restaurants were closed, both because of the season and because of the pandemic. We had lunch outside at a small restaurant. Everyone had masks except when eating. There was a lovely breeze off the water and warm air despite the clouds. We decided to splurge on dessert and go find an open ice cream stand. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yum!

Can you see the rabbits under the bush?

There is wild life down the shore, despite all the people. We had a lot of fun watching the rabbits. I don’t know what variety of rabbits they were, but there were a lot. Amazing how 2 grown women can act like young children who have never seen a rabbit before. We watched them for quite awhile, taking lots of pictures. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a bunny!!!!!

Is that a jack rabbit? Looks big to be a bunny.

Other than lunch and our farmers’ market purchases, there wasn’t too much that tempted us in the way of souvenirs. One store was selling “mask chains”. These are the same concept as eye glass holders – a necklace that lets you remove your glasses/mask from your face, but leave them hanging around your neck for easy access. When we went in to check on this, they were sold out. That was a little disappointing as we’d been dropping and replacing our masks all day as we strolled about, getting close to others, and then being socially distanced.

Fun for all ages!

On previous trips my sister and I have gotten matching ankle bracelets, and other little souvenirs. We saw a shop with the same kind of chains as our ankle bracelets. We stopped by to check out the chains, and began chatting with the proprietor. We mentioned the mask necklace and he told us he could make them for us, that he had some already. We each picked out the beads we wanted and he made them right there, for considerably less than the other store was charging for the ones they DIDN’T have. (That reminds me of a joke. Mrs. G went to the fish store looking for a “nice piece of cod”. Mr. R, The proprietor, said “Here it is, $7/lb.” Mrs. G exclaimed “SEVEN dollars? Mr. Y up the block is only charging FIVE dollars a pound!” Mr. R. said “So go buy from Mr. Y.” Mrs. G. replied “Mr. Y is out of cod.” Mr. R. said “When I’m out of cod, I only charge $5/lb as well.” *grin* I LOVED that joke when I was young and first discovered it.)

Music Town

The Axelband, playing rock

Saturday was a beautiful fall day. I wasn’t in the mood to do chores. I wasn’t in the mood for college football. I can’t make up my mind about college football – should they be playing, should they have cancelled the season. I think that probably the majority of the people involved with college football want to be playing, so I guess it’s a good thing. I’m just glad that no one I care about had to decide whether or not to participate. ANYWAY – it was a beautiful day so my sister and I decide to walk and talk.

We had only gone a few blocks when we encountered a trio playing cool jazz in the driveway. They had chairs set up, and there were perhaps 10 people or so scattered about listening. We smiled and thought “well, that’s another great way to spend this lovely afternoon.” We listened a bit and then walked on. Several blocks later we came upon another group playing outside. This group (Axelband) was playing rock. There were between 15-20 people gathered here in chairs, standing, and perched on the low stone wall opposite the group’s driveway. We started thinking that this might be a “thing”. We did some searching and discovered posts about 2 other groups playing. It did not appear to be sponsored by the town. We don’t know if it was something the musicians set up on their own, if it was spontaneous, or if it will be happening more weekends. It was a great idea and certainly livened our walk!

Cool jazz trio

Meteor Crater

I was out in Arizona to relax and refresh. When my son mentioned that the hike he picked for us was up in Sedona, my first reaction was dismay. Although I love Sedona, I was SO TIRED. Driving up and back in one day is exhausting. I’d already booked my hotel in Chandler for the entire week. But as I thought on it my attitude changed. I love Sedona. It sounded like a great hike. My hotel wasn’t costing all that much. We needed a break. I decided that we would drive up to Sedona (after all, isn’t that a perfect trip for a convertible Mustang?) AND we would stay overnight. Yes, I’d be paying for 2 hotel rooms at the same time, but I decided it was worth the cost. I started flipping through “What to do in Arizona” sites, and saw that up by Flagstaff there was something called Meteor Crater.

First stop on the rim tour

I like looking at holes in the ground. ๐Ÿ™‚ After all, what are the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon but big holes in the ground? Okay – maybe they are more like wide cracks in the ground, but still – ‘in the ground’, not above. I liked the Ramon Crater in Israel – another hole in the ground. I suggested that we drive up to Flagstaff and see the Meteor Crater, and then drive down to Sedona for dinner and stay the night. We’d get up refreshed and go hike, hang about Sedona, then drive back to Chandler. My son agreed with that plan. (He’s actually very agreeable.)

The old mining site at the bottom of the crater – those little specs of white

I went to chat with the front desk at the hotel and told them my plans, and asked if maybe they could help me find a place at a “sister” hotel and maybe get me a better rate. They explained that they did not partner with any of the other hotels up there, not even ones owned by Hilton. But, she said, what I can do is help you out here. How about if I take off one night here for you, would that be okay? Would it be okay? It would be delightful. We had a long chat about Sedona, hiking, scenery, vacations. The folks at the front desk of the Chandler Hilton are so friendly and helpful. With this plan I didn’t have to pack up and check out and then come back and check in again. Not only that, but we’d not had room service yet. I scheduled room service for the Monday we were leaving. That way we’d come back to a nice clean room and if there were any germs floating about, they should have settled/evaporated by the time of our return. (Again – all the hotel personnel wore masks and followed all the social distancing protocols.)

Just a slight shift in position and the light changes.

Hotel rooms in Sedona are expensive and not plentiful, even during a pandemic. I checked out several and finally went with one of the less expensive ones, right near the lower center of town. It was a Hilton property as I thought it only fair. ๐Ÿ™‚ We packed up our backpacks, made sure we had suntan lotion and water, and started out after breakfast Monday morning. *laughing* I think we ended up making 3 trips back to my son’s house for things we forgot before we finally got out to the highway.

Turning my back to the crater and looking out towards the tribal lands

Although we started out cruising with the top down on the car, we were traveling at such high speeds (love the Arizona speed limits) that I pulled over and put the roof back, and turned on the a/c. That made for a much more comfortable (and faster) drive. Route 17 goes through beautiful desert, then up to the forest, over the mountains and on to Flagstaff. I found this quote while trying to remember what we saw on Rt. 17: “You will gain more than a mile in altitude on your drive between Phoenix (1,117 feet) and Flagstaff (7,000 feet), cruising through ever-changing desert ecosystems dominated by saguaro, juniper, and Ponderosa pine.” Yep – they said it MUCH better than I did.

Making our way around the rim. It’s mostly flat except for that last bit we did.

We saw the sign for Montezuma Well and made our usual jokes. We saw a sign for Walnut Canyon and thought we might stop there during this trip as well. When I’m in NJ, I have a fairly accurate sense of how long a given trip will take given the mileage and the roads. For some reason I misjudged the distance to the crater. I kept thinking “Flagstaff” but it’s actually located 35 miles east of Flagstaff. Given our late start, and the slower driving with the top down, it was around 1:30-1:45 when we arrived. We were just in time to join the 2:10pm tour.

We’ve gotten a bit further counter-clockwise on the rim, down the steep part

Obviously the website will give a much better description of the crater and why it is so cool to see, but I’ll try to do some of that here for you folk who don’t click through. ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh – and for one of you – “The Meteor Crater RV Park is located just off Interstate 40 exit 233, less than a 1/4 mile to the right. The large parking lot includes a Mobil Gas Station and Country Store for checking in.” The brochure says this is “the best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. 50,00 years ago a huge iron-nickel meteorite, estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, struck the northern Arizona rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. In seconds, the result of this violent impact was the excavation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity (550 feet deep and 4,000 feet across) known today as Meteor Crater.”

At the top, to the left, about 10:00 – you see a dark spec – the museum building (just right of the tall tan peak) – gives a sense of perspective if the little white mining dots didn’t

The land is privately owned, although surrounded by much tribal land. The guide told us that astronauts have used the site for training and they have used the site for film locations as well. You can no longer go down into the crater – the change in air pressure is so extreme (it actually gets thinner at the bottom) that many people cannot get back out. When that happens they have to call in the US Air Force to medivac them. That gets extremely costly. There is a tour on the rim, but for only a small part. Thank goodness! I can’t remember the exact distance but I know there is no way I could do a hike around the perimeter.

An old furnace at the top left. Impossible to avoid all signs of other tourists. ๐Ÿ™‚

The tour was very interesting and just long enough, although I was a bit apprehensive from the very first things the guide said once he locked the door behind us. “We are at 5710 feet, higher altitude than Denver, CO (5280 feet). ” If you remember my post last year, I discovered that I am NOT used to high altitudes and had great difficulty attempting to hike in the Superstition Mountains for that reason. I had visions of me fainting and falling into the crater, which is 560 ft deep, and a very, very rocky descent. Obviously I was alright. *grin* For me the most interesting fact was finding out what happened to the meteor. Something that big you would think would still be around. It is. Although one good sized chunk (maybe a foot long) is on display in the museum, the rest of the meteor is underfoot. The guide did a wonderful display of scooping dust and then showing with a magnet that the dust was the meteor – completely disintegrated into the dust under our feet. Definitely a fascinating discussion and explanation.

So THIS shadow is allowed because that’s me, loving the red and tan rocks

I recommend Meteor Crater. Time-wise I think you might want to allow half a day. My son and I thought we’d go to Walnut Canyon on our way to Sedona, but we overheard 3 other groups talking about meeting up at Walnut Canyon. *grin* We decided that maybe it was getting a bit late in the day for another major excursion, and we still had another 90 minutes ride to get to Sedona. We’ll get to Walnut Canyon another time. ๐Ÿ™‚

One final look as the sun got lower

Montezuma Well

I usually try to write & post in chronological order. That isn’t working for me these days. The malaise I attribute to life in a pandemic means that I took many photos and could never bring myself to write. My vacation to Arizona has refreshed me and ‘cleared my cache’ so I can again look on the bright side of life. I’m trying to catch up with all those old photos and dreading trying to put my love of Sedona in words. Sedona is beyond words. I may simply end up with nothing but pictures. In the meantime I’m going to stick my toe in the metaphorical water and write about Montezuma Well.

Looking down from the top – little white specks are ducks.

My son and I had seen the signs for Montezuma Well last year on our way to Sedona. It tickled our fancy and made us imagine ridiculous scenarios for what it might be. We didn’t know if it was a place or a thing or both. It reminded ME of that town along Interstate 80 in Pennsylvania, that is named Jersey Shore. Montezuma (or more properly Moctezuma II) was an Aztec ruler. The Aztecs were not in northern Arizona. Yet there along Rt 17, as we headed up to Flagstaff, was that sign for his well. We couldn’t stop on our way north, but we did have time to stop on our way south.

Stairs leading down to water level

Montezuma Well, together with Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot, is part of the National Park Service. They are the remnants of the Sinagua people. The well began forming more than 10,000 years ago from snow atop the Mogollon Rim. That snow melted through all the rocks over the millenia, but hit a vertical wall of volcanic basalt. This volcanic basalt acts as a dam, forcing the water back towards the surface. Ultimately (remember – millenia), it formed the sinkhole that is there today. The water remains at a constant temperature (I believe around 74 F) and near constant volume. You’d think this was a wonderful source for drinking but it is highly carbonated with a very high arsenic content. Quoting Wikipedia: “At least five endemic species are found exclusively in Montezuma Well: a diatom, the Montezuma Well springsnail, a water scorpion, the Hyalella montezuma amphipod, and the Motobdella montezuma leech โ€” the most endemic species in any spring in the southwestern United States.” (Yes, I had to look up ‘endemic’ – native and restricted to a certain place.) Wikipedia says the water was used for irrigation, which I find puzzling because of the arsenic. I need to research why the plants do not absorb the arsenic.

Petroglyph

Besides those 5 endemic species, we saw a lot of ducks having a peaceful time paddling about the water. As always, the view from the top of the well is beautiful – flat land stretching out to looming mountains. There are 2 paths but only 1 is open currently – the path down to the swallet. (I learned a lot of new words on this adventure: swallet = sinkhole.) From the top that path looked steep and a bit rocky but I decided to brave it anyway. I’m glad I did because the top view was misleading. Although it is somewhat steep, it was easily manageable – no need to traverse it on my tush. ๐Ÿ™‚

Water leaving the well (goes through cave to outside for irrigation)

There are interesting rocks, and views of the dwellings on the far wall, and finally you arrive at water level. There you can see where the water drains from the sinkhole into a small cave to appear above ground outside the formation to provide irrigation. There was a volunteer ranger there as well to answer questions. Down at water level it is delightfully cool and shaded, with a bench for resting. There are at least 2 petroglyphs visible on the rocks.

Dwellings in the cliff, looking up from the path

Since the longer trail is currently closed for safety reasons, our visit was perhaps 30 minutes in total. We hiked to the top, read the signs, took pictures, and then hiked down to water level. We spent a few moments there chatting with the ranger and taking photos, and then hiked back up. Although it’s a short stop, it is well worth the time. We agreed that we needed to leave more time our next time heading north so we could see Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot.

If It Only Had An Ocean

view from my chaise lounge at the hotel pool

Like many people these days, I have been feeling frustrated living during a pandemic. I will say straight out (making every gesture and speaking every saying that averts the ‘evil eye’) that I really have no reason to complain. My husband and I both work from home and have been fully employed. My parents, may they rest in peace, are no longer here and I don’t have to worry about them. I have no children of school age so I don’t have to make the crucial decision of whether or not to let them attend classes in person. I live in NJ where we fought the virus and brought it under control. Well, we did, but now apparently many New Jerseyans are feeling mask fatigue and have stopped doing all the things that protected us all for so long. But I miss my son. I haven’t seen him since the very beginning of February. No trip back home for Passover in the spring, no trip for me to him in the spring or to spend Rosh Hashanah with him. Arizona brought its infection rate waaaaaaay down and I decided it was time to take action.

Ready for takeoff!

I booked myself a trip to Phoenix. I got a round-trip first class ticket for a ridiculously low price, using all of my accumulated airline points. I booked myself into a hotel only 15 minutes from my son’s house. The rates were VERY low for the room – on the executive floor, with a walk-out balcony, and access to the concierge lounge. I’d stayed at this Chandler Hilton before and enjoyed it. The people there are lovely – helpful and cheerful! I even had a reasonable car rental. I decided to go for an entire week, and spend some days on vacation but other days working from the hotel. I thought I was taking this trip to reset MY spirits, but as departure day got closer I realized that my son was also in true need of a complete and utter break from his life.

Somewhere between NJ and AZ

He’s been in his house since mid-April, working from home, hanging out with his housemates. Other than trips to the grocery store once a week, he really had no place to go. For many months Arizona was not enforcing mask usage, and the infection rates were soaring. His friends were sheltering and he didn’t want to risk infection. By mid-July Arizona had followed the example set by the northeastern states and had shut-down all indoor activities. His work, while interesting, had become pressure-filled with deadlines and changes and other elements that can make employment truly seem like “work”. I’d imagined we’d hang out at the hotel, around the pool, but when I got there I learned that the hike he’d planned was up in Sedona. So twist my arm. *grin* We’ll go to Sedona.

First look from the hotel balcony

The trip was wonderful. I began describing it as the two of us clearing our cache. Those of you who understand browser terminology will understand that. We cleared out all the stale information cluttering our brains, and started fresh. Flagstaff and Sedona rate their own posts, but you can see the view from the hotel, and the ridiculously expensive self-indulgent car I rented. They were wonderfully nice and helpful at the Budget car rental at Sky Harbor in Phoenix. When I booked I was told no convertible was available, but when I asked at the desk, they managed to find me one and work a deal. ๐Ÿ™‚ We put over 600 miles on that little beauty.

The “A Butte” in the middle of Tempe

It was a very indulgent, relaxing, enjoyable week. We started slowly – cruising about Tempe on Saturday to find nearby spots that could refresh and renew (check out Tempe Town Lake and Beach). Downtown Tempe showed the effect of ASU doing classes remotely. Many closed restaurants and stores. There were still many students around, however, and music and food. (And of course the Tempe Butte, backdrop to Sun Devil Stadium games, is always there.) All restaurants followed the mask and social distancing protocols that have become the norm. Friday night (my arrival) we found outdoor seating at The Keg in Chandler, an excellent steakhouse. Saturday night we ate outdoors at Four Peaks Brewery, a favorite spot. Sunday was spent hanging out at the pool for a few hours reading. We were so relaxed from the heat and the water and reading that dinner was just a little bit of takeout (well, really delivery – the hotel no longer has a restaurant and bar and has worked out a delivery service with a nearby restaurant).

And we had fun, fun, fun!

We both feel refreshed and renewed. I LOVE Arizona. I would move there tomorrow if it only had an ocean. But I am too much a Jersey girl to move too far from the Atlantic Ocean. As much as I am lost in the splendor of the desert, ultimately it is the ocean that brings me complete serenity. Ah, to have them both. Since I can’t, I’ll keep heading out to Arizona to soak in that sun.

The mustang appears when you unlock the car. ๐Ÿ™‚

Birthday Lunch Down the Shore

highlands beach

I know I’m getting older. Time was if I’d planned to go to the beach, nothing would deter me. But despite having plans to spend Thursday down the shore, I could sense my heart wasn’t really in it. I’ve been hearing horror stories about the traffic and the lines to get into the national park. It’s been so humid that it sucks the life out of me. Late Wednesday night I emailed my sister and said – let’s not go. She was astounded and concerned. The truth was that I’ve been doing so many things that I’ve wanted to get done for so long, and I wasn’t ready to take a day and do nothing. I wrote back and said that nothing was wrong, I really was still her sister Ahuva, and that I was planning to go down the shore for lunch. She was amenable to that change so down to the Highlands we went, back to Inlet Cafe. That place is really becoming one of my favorite spots.

old rusted anchor

local color

We drove down in the luxury car, not the convertible. Neither of us was really up for the 96 degree heat and humidity. I love my new used car – it rides so smoothly and is so powerful. I’m enjoying all the luxuries and appreciate the fine tuning. Unlike dinner on a Saturday night, there was no wait for a table. I probably made a mistake by asking for a table in the shade. We sat close to the building and there was only an occasional breeze. I’m not sure that it would have been better at the tables by the water, however. They are separated by walls of clear plastic now and it’s possible that the plastic would also break the breeze. It didn’t really matter as the food was great, excellent service and a lovely view of the water.

sign board at inlet cafe

sign board at inlet cafe

While we were there I had birthday calls and texts from my niece and my son, so it was a little family lunch. For many years the 4 of us had what we called “our beach day”. Over the years we had traditional stops on the way, traditional conversations, and lots of memories of good times together. Time passes, children grow up and move away, and it’s been awhile since we had “our beach day”.

NOT spqr

NOT SPQR ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

My sister CLAIMS she reads my blog posts, but she was astounded when I parked the car in the tiny municipal lot by the tiny little beach. Despite signs claiming it was an unguarded beach there WAS a lifeguard on duty. I’d noticed the lifeguard stand when we’d been down there for dinner. There were letters on the back but they were partly covered by signs. My liberal arts Roman history major mind looked at what was visible and was sure the letters were SPQR – Senฤtus Populusque Rลmฤnus. For those of you who did NOT study with our beloved Dr. P. B. Harvey at PSU, SPQR is “The Senate and People of Rome”, an emblematic abbreviated phrase referring to the government of the ancient Roman Republic. It appears on Roman currency, at the end of documents made public by an inscription in stone or metal, and in dedications of monuments and public works. I had no idea why a lifeguard stand in the Highlands should have SPQR painted on it, but it definitely struck my fancy. ๐Ÿ™‚ Since there was someone ON the stand, I couldn’t resist. I walked over and asked the young (cute) life guard what it said. He replied that it was SBOR – Sea Bright Ocean Rescue. I told him I was crushed and started to explain and he nodded and finished the explanation. *grin* Not only cute but learned. Impressive. Ah well, we must learn to live with disappointment.

joe's salt sticks

my brother-in-law’s incredibly delicious salt sticks

I pointed out to my sister some of my other favorite little discoveries around the restaurant. I have always been an LBI fan, especially drawn to Beach Haven, but I could really envision renting down in the Highlands. Actually, I could envision retiring to the Highlands. Too bad my husband is set on moving further south when we actually do this retirement thing.

joe's rye bread

Incredibly moist tasty rye bread

Driving home we had one of those “sister experiences”, where we end up laughing so hard we are crying, our sides hurt from laughing, and we worry about not having a change of clothing. ๐Ÿ™‚ I do believe my sister is the only one who makes me laugh like that, where I am crying from laughing, and I scream with laughter. It felt good. I begged her to write a post for this, because she writes so well and we were so out of control, but she decided it simply would not translate properly. We had dinner at her house, as her husband offered to make me anything I wanted for my birthday dinner. He and I cook for each other now it seems. He is always making me bread that is so delicious I cannot stop eating it. All his bread is good but his salt sticks and rye bread are sublime. Many many many years ago I traded my Thanksgiving dinner rights for a yearly loaf of rye bread. On the other hand, *I* make him sugar-free desserts. One of the things I wanted to do on vacation was try a new recipe – a flourless chocolate cake. Since I now have FIVE boxes of Tagatesse, I wanted to see if I could make a SF chocolate cake. I knew once I licked the batter that I had a winner. Flourless cakes are much like thick brownies. We brought over some SF vanilla ice cream and had a fantastic dinner with my favorite breads (and hot pastrami) and a great dessert! Birthdays are fun. Just a shame that they come with aging bodies. ๐Ÿ™‚

sf flourless chocolate cake

SF flourless chocolate cake dusted with powdered Tagatesse

Ahhh! The Shore

Wish I had a boat

Wish I had a boat

My husband is brilliant. I don’t remember what we were discussing. Maybe talking about the possibility of eating out at a restaurant. Maybe just the fact that we are not going to be able to go away on a vacation this year. Whatever the topic, he said “Let’s go have dinner down the shore on Saturday.” I agreed but didn’t really think much about it – we plan lots of things that don’t come to fruition, especially if it involves moving. ๐Ÿ™‚ Saturday was in the 90s, humid, and hot hot hot. I’d already been running the air conditioners since the previous afternoon. When he repeated the suggestion at lunchtime first I said no, it would be too hot. Then I wondered who had taken over my body and was speaking for me – I NEVER say no to going down the shore. So I said we should go. I called the restaurant and of course they don’t take reservations. She said we could call 45 minutes before we got there to get on the list. Think about that for a moment.

view from Inlet Cafe

Put down my drink to capture the view

We left just after 4:00. We opted for the local roads instead of the Parkway. Of course we took the convertible. ๐Ÿ™‚ With the top down, and the a/c going full blast, it was perfectly comfortable. We were on Rt 36, closing in on the Highlands, when “Thriller” came on the radio. Say what you will about the singer, that song is still so much fun and gets me dancing, even if I’m stopped at a red light. *grin* After that I did my usual push to go to another station for music, not commercials. We caught the opening notes of Leyla. I turned the volume waaaaaaay up. I turned to my husband and said “This is the life I wanted. I’m blonde, driving a convertible, with my boyfriend, great music, on my way down the shore. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

pelican statue

Made a new friend

I’ll spare you the minutiae about parking the car – I was obsessing. To my son I’ll say – it was like picking a restaurant when we are out on vacation together. Not the first one, not the second one, okay, so maybe the third. Your father was amazingly patient. We did indeed have an hour wait, once we gave our names to the hostess. We went into the bar and got drinks and took them out where we could look at the water. We were at Inlet Cafe (I told you about them last year), across the Navesink from Gateway National Park. I downed my gin & tonic waaaay too fast so I got a wine spritzer for my next drink. We chatted with the couple next to us (social distanced next to us) and watched the boats on the water, and the boats coming to dock at the restaurant next door. Dinner was great, with VERY attentive service. Maybe a little too attentive – we guessed that they were trying to make up for the reduced number of tables by increasing turnover. Even so – it was a lovely dinner: delicious food, fantastic view, great fresh ocean air. It really wasn’t even all that hot by the water. There was a nice breeze. We walked back to the car and spent a few minutes sitting in the little gazebo at the small beach. I love LBI (Long Beach Island for those not from Jersey), but I think I could be convinced to live in the Highlands.

little Highlands beach

A nice little escape

Down to the River

Delaware River, looking north

Delaware River, looking north towards PA

With Apologies to Bruce Springsteen:

I come from central New Jersey
where sister when youโ€™re bored
They bring you up to meet in shops where you’d eat
But now thereโ€™s social distance and I canโ€™t meet with my friends
I drove out of this borough to where the state line ends

I drove down to the river
And along the river I rode
Oh down to the river I drove

In my red convertible
on twisty winding lanes
I traveled through new jersey, and I was grateful for the lack of rain
The sun shone down so brightly
my heart began to soar
No traffic delays no tolls to pay
No sand dunes, no windy shore

That day I drove down to the river
And along the river I rode
Oh down to the river I drove

I woke up completely cranky on Saturday. I don’t know why. My suspicion is that I was going through challah withdrawal. Every Friday night since March 13 (with the exception of Passover of course) I have had a fresh-baked challah, courtesy of my brother-in-law. As I mentioned before, he’d had a fever for 2 days last week, so we did not all get together for dinner. No challah!!!! I can’t think of any other reason why I’d wake up cranky on a beautiful Saturday morning.

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Delaware & Raritan Canal, Raven Rock, NJ

I tried to work my way around the ‘crank’. I took care of the cats, finished a book. I wanted to work in the garden but it was sooooo humid!!!! A real NJ summer day. Temperature expected to get up in the 80s and humid humid humid. I was hoping that maybe I could find some outdoor event but of course everything is still cancelled. I tried to “accomplish” something so I’d feel less cranky. I ironed ALL of my tops that needed ironing. That made me feel self-righteous as well as productive. Back in the old days, children, people use to work in OFFICES (a collection of rooms and desks and chairs in a building). When we worked in an office, we used to have to wear nice clothes, because other people would see us – head to toe – NOT just see our head and shoulders. Back in those days, my husband used to do all the ironing. I would do all the laundry (washing and putting away clean folded clothes) and he would do all the ironing and folding of clean clothes. When the Change occurred, and people no longer worked in offices, people stopped wearing nice clothes for work. Since my husband only has phone calls, and never F2F visits or even video conferencing, he didn’t need nice clothes. He stopped doing the ironing. While this was fine for him, it did ultimately leave ME without any nice presentable (ironed) tops. I was lucky that the iron still functioned. I’ve already written about my difficulties with the iron. THIS time I made sure I had plenty of water to keep the beast hot. ๐Ÿ™‚

wise couple living the life at the D&R Canal

Wise couple living the life at the D&R Canal

I was so empowered by the ironing that I felt I could tackle changing the battery on the phone line box. I don’t feel like taking a picture of it. I don’t know what it’s called. It’s where all the phone lines come into the house, and it has a battery in it. For several months now the battery warning light has been on, the replace battery light has been on, and periodically the unit emits a piercing beep. My brother-in-law came by to look at it a few weeks ago to help me figure out what battery I needed to order. I ordered it, it came and it sat there, next to the unit. That didn’t seem to be sufficient because the unit kept beeping and the lights stayed on. Finally I opened the unit but the battery had weird-looking connections so I shut it again and left the battery a little closer. Saturday morning I decided to be brave and strong. I changed the battery. The red warning lights all turned off and there hasn’t been a beep since then. ๐Ÿ™‚ Victory!

Lumberville-Raven Rock Bridge 2

Entry to Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge from Bull’s Island

I was still cranky. It was hot and humid but I figured by this time of day (it was after noon)the beaches would be full. I NEEDED to MOVE. I didn’t really care where I went, as long as it was away. I grabbed my beach bag (which has towels, and hats and stuff for being out in the sun) and got in the convertible. ๐Ÿ™‚ Top down. ๐Ÿ˜€ I headed west, towards the Delaware River. It’s not the shore, but it’s a nice drive (if you don’t take the highways) and maybe, just maybe, something along the river would be open. I was craving a chick cocktail. There is a restaurant in New Hope, PA (The Landing) that makes great cocktails.

The drive was wonderful. I wasn’t too hot because of the moving air. It doesn’t feel humid when the air is moving past you. When I got to Hopewell, I saw that one of the restaurants appeared to be serving food in front of the firehouse. I’d met a woman who lived across from that restaurant and we’ve texted a time or two. I texted her to see if she wanted to meet at the firehouse. I figured I could always turn around and go back if she wanted to get together. As long as I was stopped, I texted friends in Titusville to see if they wanted to meet up along the river, since I was nearly there. Well the friend from Hopewell now lives in Pennington (not all that far but she’d only just moved and was still trying to bring order to her life) and the friends from Titusville were all the way NORTH with family. ๐Ÿ™‚ No matter – I kept heading west.

Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge

On the Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge, looking towards PA

I crossed the river in Lambertville, into New Hope, PA. New Hope looked very open to me. As I crossed the bridge I could see folks at the outdoor tables of The Landing. People were walking along the main street, and shops were open. I could see people dining at other outdoor tables. I almost stopped – I actually pulled over into a parking spot. Then I decided that if I GOT a cocktail, I really shouldn’t keep driving the twisty, winding 2-lane roads I love. I didn’t feel like shopping alone, either. To be honest – it was simply wonderful driving the car, looking at the countryside, the trees, the canal, the river. Besides, trying to find a legal parking spot in New Hope is nearly impossible. I pulled out of the spot I was in (it wasn’t legal but I hadn’t turned off the car) and got back on the road. For those who know the area, I was driving north on Rt 32. I got up to Dilly’s Corner, which has the bridge back across the river to Stockton. I turned onto the bridge and noticed Dilly’s was OPEN! When I reached Stockton I turned around, because I thought a chocolate milkshake would be perfect. I drove BACK to Dilly’s. They were only taking online orders or phone calls. I had my phone with me, but it seemed like an awful lot of work for a milkshake. Got back in the car and went back over the bridge, and headed north on Rt 29.

folks living the live at Black Bass Inn, PA

Folks living the live at Black Bass Inn, PA

You can really see the river between the trees from that part of the road. It was lovely. I passed a small parking area for accessing the river. It was full. I passed another one – Bull’s Island Recreation Area. I thought – why not stop? I turned around and went back and parked the car. It was LOVELY. There is a boat launch, access to the Delaware & Raritan canal, forest, and a pedestrian bridge to PA. Of course the bathrooms and recreation area and visitor center were all closed due to covid19. There WAS a park ranger sitting at the entrance. Poor fellow – even in the shade it was a bit humid. The boat launch into the river was closed, but there was a smaller launch into the canal. I saw a couple sitting in chairs, near the canal. They’d obviously come for the day – chairs, books, food. What a brilliant idea. It could have been me – I carry folding chairs and a table in the car. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jersey shore of the Delaware River, Bull's Island

Jersey shore of the Delaware River, Bull’s Island, from pedestrian bridge

The pedestrian bridge was great. It is the Lumberville-Raven Rock Pedestrian Bridge. It says it is toll-supported but I saw no toll. ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess that means that tolls on other roads and bridges help support this one. I could stand in the middle and stare at the water. I did that. It worked, because when I closed my eyes that night to go to sleep, what I saw was the river. *huge smile* Across the bridge is the Black Bass Hotel with dining. I could see folks at the outdoor tables. It looked lovely. We’ll have to get back there and enjoy some fine dining ourselves. I relaxed, took pictures, and then got back in the car. I was trying to decide if I should continue north up to the Delaware Water Gap or if I should begin to head east towards home. I’d been out for about 2.5 hours at that point and while I wanted to keep going, I knew that sooner or later I was going to need a bio break. Furthermore it was a good 40 minutes or so to the Gap, at least the way I was going. From the Gap it’s an hour back home IF I take the highway and I was trying to avoid getting on any highways.

Delware River looking towards PA

Delware River looking towards PA

I continued up to Frenchtown, which also looked somewhat open, although not as open as New Hope. (Lambertville did NOT look open.) After Frenchtown I cut east, heading towards Whitehouse Station. I did cheat finally at Whitehouse Station and got on the highway to head home. All in all, by the time I got home, I’d spent 4 wonderful hours out in the fresh air and sunshine, enjoying New Jersey. AND I saw my first butterfly of the season!

first butterfly of the season

first butterfly of the season – that was as close as I could get. black with blue markings. Guessing it was a Black Swallowtail

I Am Not A Moderate

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Superstition Mountains

That statement probably doesn’t surprise some people who know me, it may surprise others. I used to swing on an extreme emotional pendulum when I was much younger. Somewhere over the years I did learn moderation and to try to skirt too much extremism. But by golly I DID hike up to Devil’s Bridge back in June and that hike is rated moderate by the USDA Forest Service. Yes, I was terrified during the steep ascent and descent, and frozen in fear at the top, but I got there and back. So when I knew I was heading back to Phoenix in September, I thought that I could handle hikes rated ‘easy’ or ‘moderate’. I’ve begun following “Hike Phoenix”, a blog about hiking in Arizona. I read several of her suggested hikes and the Peralta Trail up to Fremont Saddle sounded beautiful and do-able. She rated it ‘moderate’ and said it would take approximately 2.5 hours to hike 5 miles. I thought about that and figured it would probably be more like 4 hours for me, but if we went slow and steady I would be okay. My son agreed with my selection. We packed up water, and sun screen, and some light snacks and headed up the highway.

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Getting closer – left the highway

I make my son crazy when we are driving out there. The same way I make Honour crazy. I am oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing at the scenery and trying to take photos through the windshield and through the side windows and begging him to drive more slowly and oh oh just slow up over there! We headed up the highway and soon enough we could see the Superstition Mountains. Once again we were probably starting out later in the day than most serious hikers, but we’d already proven to ourselves that we carry sufficient water and we’re not foolish about over-staying.

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Made it!!

You turn off the paved highway onto a fairly well-packed dirt road. We traveled that for awhile, and we did see other cars. We also saw incredible scenery so it did take us awhile to make progress since I kept insisting we stop the car so I could take ‘just one shot’. We finally made it to the trail head at about 1 pm or so. We reapplied our sun screen, shaded the inside of the car best as possible, drank some water, and took photos of the sign boards. I always figure that if nothing else my phone can serve as a map should we need it. We were going to do Trail 102 – up to Fremont Saddle and then back the way we came. You are probably much wiser and more observant than I and you might see what I did not. We finally stepped out a little after 1:00 pm.

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Notice the Peralta trailhead marked at the bottom, on the left, Trail 102 leading up from there


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I really need to have a better understanding of what these charts told me

It was gorgeous. We met some other hikers – both heading out and coming back. I was envious of the young man who passed us – he had not one but TWO walking sticks. I said to my son that we needed to invest in some walking sticks for ourselves. It wasn’t warm, but not unduly hot. Sunny but there were shady spots on the trail. I took pictures of course. I figured we had 4 hours total. We’d get as far as we could in 2 hours and then turn back, even if we hadn’t made it to the saddle. That saddle was beginning to look quite a ways away.

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On the Peralta Trail

We’d been walking 10 minutes and I thought – I need to rest. I stopped, sipped some water, felt my pulse calm. I started up. I was beginning to feel stressed. My knees were fine (they have been problematic in the past). My foot was good too – I wasn’t feeling insecure in my footing, nothing hurt. And yet – I couldn’t seem to keep pushing on. Every 10 minutes I needed to stop and get my breath. My son is wonderfully patient. He never gives me a hard time about “let’s get going” or “you can do this”. He is supportive and says we’ll take it at whatever works for you. We’d been heading up for probably 30 minutes by now. I didn’t feel like we’d gotten anywhere but I also didn’t feel like I could keep going. By this time I was saying to myself that we would just go as far as we could go in an hour and then turn back.
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We met people coming down the trail from the saddle. 3 young women and their dog. They were fairly exhausted. When they met us they were saying “oh my aren’t we at the bottom yet?” They told us it was much more strenuous ahead, that it was a stiff climb, upwards, always upwards. In their opinion it wasn’t going to be worth it to me to keep trying to get up there because beautiful as it was, it was a beautiful view right where we were there.
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It was already after 2pm. I dreaded going any farther up the trail. I might have been petrified with fear on Devil’s Bridge, but I never doubted that I could get there or back. I was starting to fear that I wasn’t even going to be able to make it back to the car once I decided to turn back here. I simply could not get enough air. Nothing hurt, it wasn’t too hot, I just could not get enough air to breathe. New Jersey girl – meet the mountain elevations!
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I looked at my son and said “I can’t do this. I’m very sorry but I don’t think I can go up any higher. I’m not having fun. It’s not worth it to me. If I push myself to keep going I’m afraid I won’t be able to get back home.” He said it was my call and he was fine with turning around right there and heading back to the car. So we did.
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I made it just over 60 minutes on that trail – basically 30 minutes up with lots of resting, 30 minutes back. It’s beautiful. I’d love to do it some day. I was extremely disappointed. Obviously walking for 4 miles through the Rutgers Ecological Preserve is NOTHING like walking in the mountains of Arizona. ๐Ÿ™‚ There is a HUGE difference between walking about and walking UP. If we’re talking walking ABOUT, hey, I can DO moderate. If we’re talking UP, I’m not a moderate. *grin*
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This little guy scampered along with us for quite a bit of the trip back down to the car

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final backward look


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