Archive for the 'Adventures and Fun Places' Category

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

If It Was Good Enough For Marilyn

center court with construction wall behind

The center courtyard, Piestewa Peak in the background, fake ivy-covered construction wall cutting across the green

Although I absolutely LOVED my time at The Boulders in June, when I headed to Phoenix in September I wanted to stay a bit closer to my son’s house. Remembering the tips I got from my SuperShuttle drivers, I checked to see if I could get a room at the Arizona Biltmore. I remembered them telling me that the Biltmore had Marilyn Monroe’s FAVORITE pool. It is a historical site as well, with the architecture and grounds designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright (who consulted on the design). I could indeed, and there was even a “special” rate. Keep in mind that this ‘special’ rate was more than half again as much as I paid per night for The Boulders. That fact will become important in the telling. Although it was a bit more than I’d hoped, it was for fewer nights so I figured it would all be fine.

outdoor restaurant with view

sitting in the outdoor restaurant, enjoying the view

Let me say that the grounds are GORGEOUS! The architecture is stunning. All the people working there (with one exception) were lovely, friendly and helpful. The pools are stunning. The views are sensational. Every grouping of rooms has its own pool and gardens and signature. I was staying in the Terrace Court section of the resort. There are many maps out there on the internet showing the grounds of the resort. I was given one when I checked in as well. It would have been helpful to have familiarized myself very carefully with the aerial view right from the start. I didn’t and maybe it would have helped, but maybe nothing would have helped. Anyway, the Terrace Court was pretty much as far from the check-in desk as you could be and still be on the grounds. ๐Ÿ™‚ (That is a slight exaggeration but not a complete fabrication.) Even so – it wasn’t far. Once I understood the layout, and once I found my shortcut, it looks farther from things than it is.

left walkway to Terrace Court

the LEFT walkway to Terrace Court. Construction on the right, Piestewa in the background

I got in around 1pm Arizona time, 4pm ET. I wanted to get to my room, have something cold to drink, maybe a small nosh to eat, and relax. I was only carrying my bag and my rolling carry-on luggage – not too much to handle on my own. The sweet young thing at the check-in desk gave me a map and told me to head to the right once I was outside, and then continue bearing left to get to the Terrace Court. That would have worked. But unbeknownst to the check-in clerk, the grounds on Friday afternoon no longer resembled the grounds on Thursday night. They have begun digging up the gardens in the center of the grounds. At the point where I should have headed left, there was a construction wall up. I kept heading straight. I ended up in Ocatilla. I knew I was not in the right place but I really didn’t know how to get to where I needed to be. The ground crew and room staff were very concerned, and wanted to help but, alas, they did not speak English and my Spanish was not up to this task. (Hola Paco, Como esta usted? really doesn’t get you very far in most day-to-day conversations.) I could tell by their reactions that I was nowhere near where I should be. I backtracked and found a walkway that led left but it appeared to end at a wall. I figured I had nothing left to lose so I walked that way. Lo and behold – there was a walkway to the right, along the construction wall. I followed that and made it to my room. I was hot and cranky at this point. All I wanted was to relax.

the hidden right turn

Does it look like a through-way to YOU?

I always check out my room before I unpack – bathroom, safe, doors, locks. I couldn’t lock the balcony door. I’m not stupid nor am I incompetent. I was pretty sure the door was broken. I called to the front desk. They assured me they would send someone to help me with the door. Indeed, it was probably only about 10 minutes or so before 2 men came to help me with the door. It took them only 5 minutes to realize they could not help me – the door was indeed broken and they’d need to drill out the entire lock mechanism. They called down to the front desk and explained that I should be given a new room. So I sat and waited for the next person to come help me.

Terrace Court courtyard from above

Terrace Court courtyard from above

This was Pete from the bell staff. Pete is a star. He alone made up for all that happened so far and that would happen after. He was upbeat, funny, helpful. We walked down the hall to another room. We went in, checked the balcony door. He headed out and I walked into the bathroom. Where there was water running. Loudly. Except – there was no water running. Just the sound of water gushing down. I ran to the door and shouted down the hallway to Pete, who was still in sight. He came back. He heard the water. He suggested that it was the people above me taking a shower. I said, possibly, except we are on the top floor and there is no one above me. He acknowledged this and we both looked around trying to figure out where the water might be. I said “this is not going to work for me.” He said, not a problem, we’ll get you another room. I’ll be right back.

Terrace Court courtyard

Terrace Court courtyard

Ooooookay. So much for kicking off my shoes and making a cold drink and eating a nosh. Another 10-15 minutes and Pete returned. He led me to a room on the other side of the building. The first 2 rooms had views of the interior grounds, which are lovely, but under construction, whereas this third room had a view of Piestewa Peak. It also had a view of roofs and roads but Piestewa is a magnificent sight, and exactly the kind of thing I WANT on my vacation balcony. Pete and I checked every door. We turned on the shower, we turned on the bath. We turned off the bath and the shower. We flushed the toilet. We hardly dared to look at each other. I went to try the room safe. It was locked. A room safe should be left open when the previous occupants leave. Pete called for security, because locked room safes were beyond his authority. At this point we could do nothing but laugh. I mean really??? For what I’m paying per night for this fabled hotel and nothing in the plant is maintained properly??? I told Pete he owed me a drink and that if I had to change rooms AGAIN he was going to owe me chocolate and flowers. He smiled triumphantly and said “I’m on top of this” and handed me two drink vouchers.

terrace court pool

terrace court pool

Two security men arrived, one of whom it turned out was the head of security. They fiddled with the safe. Nothing. They fiddled more. And again. Finally AHAH!!! The safe OPENED!! It was, of course, empty. So with all 3 men watching me, I locked the safe, and then reopened the safe successfully. Finally!!! It only took 3 hours to get me a room where everything worked. I waved goodbye to my entourage and finally unpacked. I locked the door with a do-not-disturb on the knob, changed my cloths, grabbed my snack and went out onto the balcony to stare at Piestewa and read my book.

Balcony view of Piestewa Peak

View from the balcony – Piestewa Peak

My son was joining me after work. I told him I would meet him in the lobby because I didn’t think he would EVER find his way to the room, given all the wrong turns I took, especially because it would be after dark by the time he came. He called to tell me he’d arrived and that he’d just given the car to the valet to park, because he didn’t feel like dealing with finding the self-park garage. I met him in the lobby and escorted him back to the room with only one wrong turn on the way. It was dark, and that walkway that appeared to end in a wall was tricky to see.

palm trees with shadows

I loved the shadows

We were both very tired. We knew we wanted to head out hiking the next day, and we had plans for eating out to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, so we thought we’d simply take advantage of our free drink vouchers and eat in the hotel, although neither of us found the menu all that appetizing. We found our way to the outdoor restaurant with no problems. We had a pick of tables. We sat. And waited. A hostess came by and apologized and said things were busy and gave us menus and took our drink orders. That was the point when we noticed our drink vouchers were for “up to $15/drink” and most of the drinks were over $20. Seriously? I no longer remember every single detail (thank goodness for that) but dinner was a flop. Our waiter, when he finally showed, was terrible. Service was worse. We needed water desperately and I got up to try to tackle someone somewhere to give us water. On my search I ran into one of the security men from the safe episode. He promised to get us water. When our check finally showed up, I had my son figure the tip and bill it to the room. We were both disgusted with the whole meal and with everything up to that point. As we started away I asked if the drink vouchers had been applied. No, they had not. We turned and went back and I cornered the waiter. I explained about our drink vouchers, that the hostess had taken them, but that they should be applied. He not only applied the vouchers but he comp’d us the drinks completely. Honestly – at that point it had reached the point for us of ‘well yeah you’d better comp us’.

room service

Room Service

We headed back to the room. I HAD laid down a trail of breadcrumbs so we could find our way back but it was very dark at this point and there were NO LIGHTS along the construction wall. We took that misleading walk to the wall and turned right into the dark and were nearly run over by the room service bicycle. Thank goodness he saw us because we weren’t expecting him. We got back to the room totally astounded at the terrible grounds conditions and the crummy meal. The room was nice but we were both a bit disgruntled when we went to sleep.

paradise pool

Paradise Pool (early in the morning, before the crowds)

The next morning we wanted to get a relatively early start so we could have breakfast before we headed out for a hike. I picked up the phone to call the valet to have the car readied. No dial tone. I switched to another line. No dial tone. THE PHONE DIDN’T WORK!!!! Pete and I had not thought to check THAT! At that point I thought this is simply the pits. I’m paying nearly twice for this room for what I paid in The Boulders, where everything was exquisite. This is a fabled historic ballyhooed hotel and NOTHING WORKS. We headed to the front desk. My son went to get his car and I headed for the concierge. I went through the entire litany of misery. I figured they owed me something at this point. Indeed, they did end up comp’ing me an entire night stay. Part of me feels they should have been sending fruit trays and flowers to us as well but I suppose I shouldn’t be greedy.

paradise pool from the cabana

Paradise pool seen from the cabana

As I was talking to the concierge my son came up. Pete had guessed that he was my son and asked him if I had gotten the chocolates that Pete had sent me. My son, who had seen a candy bar I’d brought with me, said yes. When my son relayed this whole story I went out to Pete and said “Chocolates? You sent me chocolates? I never got them.” He said “Not only did I send you chocolates but I sent you a cupcake as well!” Jumping to the end of THAT story, because I had a do not disturb on my door and because my phone was out of order, room service had no way to tell me that they wanted to make a delivery. For the want of a phone the cupcake was lost. Needless to say, when we returned later that day we had both chocolates and cupcake in the room. AND a working phone.

view outside our door

The view from the balcony walkway around the courtyard

From Saturday night on I have no complaints about the hotel. Things worked as expected. They FINALLY put up signs directing people around the construction so that you could find Terrace Courts without having to use a GPS. They also mounted lights all along the construction walls so that you could see oncoming traffic in the narrow walkway. What we also realized in the daylight was that had we turned LEFT once we were outside and bore to the RIGHT around the gardens, we’d have gotten to Terrace Court with no problem. They like to send you to the RIGHT because all of the stores are on that side. ๐Ÿ™‚ We ended up using the left walk for the rest of our stay.

lights and a sign

Look! A sign AND Lights!!

On Sunday I rented us a cabana for the day. We made a run to the local Walgreens after breakfast and I made sure we had extension cords so we could power all of our electronics while we were at the pool. (My son wasn’t really on vacation – he had work he had to be doing. While I was lounging in the refreshing water and napping on the chaise, he was working away at the table.) The pool food and service was wonderful – as far from our Friday night experience as possible. The cabanas at the Orlando Hilton give you more food and drink, but the Arizona Biltmore cabana has its own bathroom. ๐Ÿ™‚ That IS a plus.

Terrace court pool in the afternoon sun

Terrace court in the afternoon sun

By the end of my stay I could see why Marilyn liked the Biltmore so much. I didn’t swim in HER pool – I was quite happy with the Paradise pool and the Terrace Court pool. I’d like to see what they end up doing in the middle court. It had beautiful gardens. I saw the broken up walls and churned up clods of dirt. Pete assured me that he had seen the plans and it would be spectacular. He told me I would have to come back when it was completed. It’s a possibility, Pete, it’s a possibility. ๐Ÿ™‚

leaving Phoenix

Leaving PHX

View From the Plane Window

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Taking off from Newark – that’s Red Bull Arena to the right

I love looking out the window of the plane, seeing the tapestry of the earth below. I take photos of the geography and promise myself that I will look it up later and figure out what I was seeing. When I flew to Phoenix in September I took a gazillion pictures AND I took pictures of the plane tracker map as well, so that I might have a clue about where I was when I took the photos. Well, now it’s January and I never did anything with any of those photos. It’s times like this that I really miss my father – he knew everything about geography and maps. I’d have been able to show him the real land and the plane tracker and he’d have been able to tell me the rivers and the mountains. Failing that, however, I give you the photos and the plane map and you can figure it out if you are so inspired! (And then tell me, please!)

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Counting the cars on the NJ Turnpike, in the Swamplands of Jersey

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Branch Brook Park, Newark, NJ

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Raritan Bay – Sandy Hook, the Outerbridge crossing

mississippi river

Looks like this must be the Mississippi River

Kansas

Exactly how I imagine Kansas – flat fields

Colorado

I took soooo many photos over Colorado – mountains, fields, water

Arizona

Heading down to Phoenix!

The Current Version of the Yearly Tradition

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Saks 5th Avenue holiday light show

I love New York. Of course by that I mean NYC, and mostly Manhattan. I’m not sure how fond I am of Staten Island. The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn all have stellar qualities but it’s Manhattan that makes my pulse race, my breath quicken. And not from fear, oh you nay sayers you. I love the excitement, the thrill, the sights, the energy. I love it best at holiday time because of the extra dollop of excitement. I have been there in the blazing hot, humid days of summer when the garbage wasn’t being collected and while there is still some energy then, holiday time is better. Even if it’s bitter cold.

My family has a tradition of heading into the city sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. I think it started even before my son went off to college, but it certainly solidified in those years. We’d head in to the city, see a show, check out the tree and plaza at Rockefeller Center, watch the Saks holiday light show, and have a great steak dinner. Yes, it is always dinner at a great steak house. This year we needed to head in during the Thanksgiving weekend because that is when my son was home. To my great disappointment it turned out that Rockefeller tree would not be lit until AFTER he returned. We went in last T-day weekend as well and the tree was definitely already lit. I have the photos to prove it. Ah well, at least the Saks light show would be running.

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James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5

I couldn’t find any matinee that appealed to me. I wanted to do something different this year, still tradition but with a little twist. The gentlemen agreed that a museum would be okay so I set my husband to the task of finding an interesting exhibit. He knocked this one out of the park. We went to Spyscape – an espionage experiential exhibit. It was GREAT! I had no idea what to expect. I will say that you should buy tickets online because there is a surcharge for buying them at the desk. ๐Ÿ™‚ You are given a gold bracelet with your own identifying disk. You use your disk to sign in to the various experiences. At the end you get a report on how well you did in all the various skills tests and a ‘placement’ of the role you might play in the spy world. I was sure I’d end up being told I’d be in the home office filing papers, but I did well enough to be an Intelligence Operative: The heart of an intelligence service, involved in an array of operations, from servicing dead drops to setting up safe houses. Who’d have thought it, right? I guess Operatives like to plan and make lists. ๐Ÿ™‚ Many of the questions are of a “what would you do?” and “what do you believe?” nature. They assess you on those questions by the answers that scored furthest from the average. This is a bit circular, I think, because their assessment of me is my assessment of me: Team Player, Determined, Empathetic. *smile* I have to say that taking the pattern recognition and logistics questions stressed me out A LOT. I was great at encryption and deception. More risky than I expected. And TERRIBLE at brain power. The test that I thought would be the worst and most stressful was the Special Ops test. That is the one where you are in a room full of laser beams and buttons. You must hit as many buttons as possible without breaking the beams. It helps to be both tall and limber for that exercise. I could not reach the top row of buttons at all but I squatted down and made it under almost every beam, slamming buttons as I went. It was incredibly exhilarating. I understood why so many of the younger visitors were doing that test again and again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Overall I still think I’d be a terrible spy and should be home filing papers.

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Blueprints

We also did the special James Bond exhibit – about the making of the latest Daniel Craig James Bond film, Skyfall. My husband insists that the “best” James Bond was George Lazenby’s Bond. He is incredibly disdainful of all other Bonds, although he admits that Sean Connery’s Bond was adequate. *rolls eyes* The Skyfall exhibit was very interesting. I LOVED seeing the car, and all the detailed plans for how they actually built the car so that all of Q’s special gimmicks worked. There are 3 short videos where they explain how they filmed the final climactic scene – from finding the location to building the necessary items to merging 1:3 scale models with the live action. You mean it didn’t all happen live once?

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Champagne bucket was in the later models

Skyscape is definitely worth a visit, although I’m not sure it’s a good match for very young children. The ability to read is a must. Many of the exhibits are texts with photos, telling spy stories. I can also recommend Mastro’s for dinner. My son and I have been dining at Mastro’s in Phoenix my last two visits and have loved it there. When we saw there was one in NYC we decided that would be this year’s steak dinner location. It was wonderful. The food and service are fantastic and we had great leftovers to bring home. Our waiter was a history buff and we had great discussions when he was at the table. ๐Ÿ™‚ Our complaints were about the lighting and noise. I’m not sure why restaurants have decided that people want to eat in darkness. Maybe this is an east coast ‘thing’ because I don’t recall this issue in Phoenix. We needed flashlights to view the menus. We weren’t the only ones doing that as I noticed people at nearby tables doing the same. The noise level was also higher than is pleasant. I understand the allure of live music, and piping music all over, but most people are dining out to DINE and CHAT, not listen to music. My opinion is that the background music is always too loud, causing people to talk loudly, and by the end of the meal you are exhausted because you have been yelling to have a simple conversation. (It’s not just Mastro’s – we encounter this at so many restaurants.) I soothed my throat with a yummy profiterole. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Saks 5th Avenue before the show

Rockefeller Center is not as grand when the tree is dark, but the Saks light show is still a wonder, no matter how many times you see it. I include a video for those of you who may not make it into the city this year.

One More Shore Dinner

Sunset on Sandy Hook Bay

Sun setting over Sandy Hook Bay

We did it! We snuck away last weekend on a SUNDAY night to have dinner down the shore. Now if you know my husband, you know that he NEVER does anything anymore on a work night. *grin* I remember when we used to go out bowling with friends on Monday evening, starting at 9pm once the leagues were done. Hard to imagine that now. We were both going to be working from home on this Monday, because we had a kidney stone follow-up appointment. When he suggested heading to Inlet Cafe in Highlands, NJ, I was thrilled.

Highlands beach

public beach at Highlands, NJ

We drove down with no trouble. I took the local way, not the Parkway, for those of you who know what I mean (and care about which road is which *grin*). Of course we took the convertible. We’d scoped out the parking the last time we were here, and I headed for the little municipal lot I’d noticed then. Although there were cars there were still spots. It only holds perhaps 10 cars maximum, maybe even only 8. What I hadn’t realized was that there was a BEACH behind the lot. There is a small gazebo, and a small beach. If you don’t mind swimming in the bay (as opposed to the ocean), there’s no reason to head over the causeway to Sandy Hook. All of a sudden the allure of renting in the Highlands became much clearer. There are a lot of cute looking restaurants and cafes in that area, as well as the Twin Lights (the historic lighthouse situated on the bluffs above the bay).

view from our table

view from our table

It’s only 2 blocks over to the Inlet Cafe. They have a corn hole game set up, 2 large lawn swings, some benches, and of course a great view of the water, in case you have to wait for a table. They have 3 dining areas – indoors, outside under a roof but with open sides (the bar was there), and then outside at tables along the water. Of course we opted for outside. We had a table right along the water and it was perfect. Like many of the restaurants there, they had a dock so you could motor up in your boat, moor, have your meal, and head out again. I always enjoy watching the boats come and go.

swans by table

motor or paddle right on up!

The drinks were great, the food extremely tasty. That is why I’m posting a food picture. I had the tuna tacos and Jim had steamers. That’s my ‘chick drink’ martini – vodka, chambord and pineapple. I do appreciate getting a good-size drink, but it shouldn’t be filled to the brim. Use bigger glasses so that I can have the proper amount of liquid without losing half of it every time I lift the glass. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ That’s probably my only complaint of the evening.
Fish tacos and martini

I want to call out the wait staff as well, and the hostess – both pleasant and professional. My husband had left his fork on his salad plate and so had no fork when his entree arrived. I was looking about for our waiter, wearing that familiar “diner in distress face”. ๐Ÿ™‚ Another waiter went by quickly, arms full of dirty dishes. He might have been 2 steps past me when he stopped, backed up and asked if I needed anything. He brought a new fork in under 30 seconds. Now THAT is good wait staff.
sign post

Before we left I wandered down to the dock to get better pictures of the swans. I know they thought I had food, so they posed for me, hoping for a reward. Alas, I’d eaten MY dinner. As we were leaving, we wandered over to see the lawn swings, and the sign post and check out what else might be there. We were easily 6 feet from the hostess stand as we headed to our car, but she called out to us, thanking us for coming and wishing us a good evening. Again – she could have ignored us, as the waiter could have justifiably ignored us. But I went back to chat with her about how much we enjoyed the meal and how management should be aware of that waiter’s professionalism and concern.
swan and reflected lights

We got back to our car and the little municipal lot was now full. As I was about to unlock the doors I felt eyes upon me. Next to us were 2 LARGE dogs. They looked like happy friendly dogs – a lot of snuffling the window and drooling – no growls or barking. I’m not sure they’d have FIT in my car!

guarding their car

Car Guardians (St Bernards?)

I am not sure the restaurant is open all through the winter. I seem to remember being told that they close for a month or two. In any case, we really, really enjoyed Inlet Cafe and will be heading back there for the food, service and view!

more swans and water

Great ambiance. Water. Swans. Boats. Pilings. Shore.

Walking in the Woods

fallen tree with multiple branches

This past weekend my friend Amy and I went off to walk in the woods. Neither of us wanted anything strenuous. We wanted to be outside in the fresh air, walking, in nature. We had several ideas: the Middlesex Greenway, the Great Swamp, Patterson Falls, the Raritan canal towpath, and the Rutgers Ecological Preserve, among many other options. I’m willing to bet that surprises many of you who probably have only seen pictures of NJ from the NJ Turnpike. NOT our best side, for sure. Try taking Rt 287 up north towards the NY state line – that will surprise you as well. Back in the late 1970s NJ was 2/3 forest. We have all sorts of preserved areas, national parks, state parks and of course the Pine Barrens. There is STILL a lot of Mother Nature green in our state.

twisted vines and branches

Twisted vines and branches

We opted for the Rutgers Ecological Preserve. Amy had only ever seen a tiny sign at one corner of the preserve, and often wondered how/where you could get in there. I often pass 2 of the small parking areas that have trail beginnings. Other than that, neither of us knew anything about it. I was fairly certain it would be mostly flat walking as I knew the general area was not at all hilly, or at least not more than our town. Amy and I both walk about town so it seemed a safe choice. We thought we’d walk for perhaps an hour. I thought we might manage 3 miles that way as I knew we’d be walking, not trying to “make time” or get anywhere.

dead vines wrapped around tree trunk

I liked the texture from the vines wrapped about the trunk

My husband printed out 2 copies of the trail map for us. I figured we could park on Road 3, take the red trail to the orange trail, and then cut back on the white trail to get back to the car. Amy had her walking stick, and I had on long sleeves and long pants – I’d been warned by my neighbor about poison ivy.

bridge over the brook

Our first view of the brook – our surprise!

We parked the car and walked to the only trail opening that we saw. It was the blue and white entrance. We turned and went back because we wanted red. There was a flat field, maybe for parking? To be honest, I can’t remember if there was a barricade up or not, but we walked across gravel and grass and did indeed find a second trail head – the red trail. There was almost no one else on the trail – a bicyclist passed us at the beginning but it was just the 2 of us, chatting and walking and looking at the trees.
brook and tree roots

There were a LOT of dead trees. In as sense the dead trees were much more interesting than the live ones. There is such stark elegance in the stripped branches. They make such curious shapes. We started seeing all sorts of animals and items in the branches.

bark squirrel climbing down tree

Bark ‘squirrel’

We also discovered a brook. I wasn’t expecting a brook. That’s because I didn’t actually LOOK at the map other than to see trails. I’ll spoil the suspense now and tell you that we did not turn off where we had planned to turn back toward the car. We saw another brook when we were high up above it. My memory of the distances does not match with what I see on the map. I’m very bad at spatial recognition. But I’m fairly sure that we saw both brooks that are in the eastern side of the preserve.

bees heading home to dead log

can you see the bees heading home into the log?

Most of the path was completely clear. We had 2 spots where we did have to step over fallen trees. There were other spots where someone had come through and cut away large chunks of tree to open the trail.
cleared path

We figured out we had missed the turn to the white trail when the trail began climbing up and up and all we saw were orange markers and then saw orange and blue markers. We’d also been walking for well over an hour at that point. Hey, we were having fun and enjoying ourselves.

fallen tree roots making a wall

The base of this tree was like a huge wall – or from this angle – a mud monster

I took out my cell phone to see if by any chance the paths would be marked on the map. Not unexpectedly they were not. But using my phone, showing me in what direction I was moving, and using the trail map, we figured out that we needed to hang a sharp left onto the blue path and make our way back there.

criss crossed dead branches

luckily this was NOT on the path

We followed the blue and white paths to a trail exit and realized immediately that it was the one on Road 1, not Road 3. That was easily fixed by backing up a few feet and hanging a right on the white path. That took us back to where we had started – our first foray out of the parking lot. All in all we walked for approximately 2 hours and covered 3.7 miles, including multiple stops for me to take pictures, and a longer stop on a bench on the top of a hill overlooking the brook.

second brook

we were higher than it appears – I zoomed in

We saw only 5 other people, plus some youth hiking group that entered at the junction of the red and orange paths just ahead of our arrival there. We never saw them again. We saw the bicyclist twice – once heading in and once on the trail. We saw a woman with her young dog. I think she said it was an English Springer Spaniel, but it was absolutely terrified of us and we didn’t wish to prolong its misery. We passed a man on his way out at the Orange/Red trail end on Avenue E. We passed 2 young student looking types when we took our hard left onto the Blue path. That was it. We were undoubtedly the loudest slowest folks in the preserve. ๐Ÿ™‚

bark possum walking up the tree

Bark possum walking up the tree

Once we were back at the car we decided we deserved some lunch. That of course necessitated thinking and deciding. As we cogitated I drove to show Amy some other neat things I knew in the area (but the horse wasn’t in the field ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ). She remembered a health food cafe she’d been to with a friend in our general vicinity. Given her description (near those strip malls, but not in them, but behind them, tucked away) I wasn’t sure we’d find that one but I did know where all the strip malls with tucked away back areas were in that area. We were such successful intrepid trekkers that day that not only did we find our way out of the woods unassisted, but we found her restaurant. We both had delicious wraps and iced coffee. A perfect ending to a perfect walk in the woods. Next time we’ll tackle the Great Swamp!

brook with bridge on blue path

Beach Escape

ahh ocean

Ahhhh. Ocean.

I FINALLY made it to the beach!!! Complete and utter thanks to my friend Pam. She called Sunday night and said that her schedule had cleared completely (and unexpectedly) and did I want to go to the beach on Monday? I looked at MY empty schedule and looked at the forecast: in the 70s, partly sunny. That wasn’t exactly beach weather but it sure was a beach schedule. I told her to count me in! We agreed that we’d aim to leave around 10am, which is what I’d normally consider a late start. Ask my family. They’ll tell you that when the kids were little, and we’d head down on a hot summer day, I’d be trying to get them out the door before 8:30 am. There’s a lot to plan for a “beach attack”: beat the traffic, close parking spot to the beach access, perfect spot on the sand, staking out the perimeter of OUR spot to keep others from getting sand on us. If *I* didn’t worry about these things, who would??? Exactly!

Given the weather forecast, given that it was a Monday (a slow beach day), and given that the last week in August either has children back in school or away on family vacations or shopping for school shoes and clothes, I didn’t think a planned attack would be required. I didn’t need to pack much food or drink. I’ve learned that I don’t really eat much when I’m on the beach, and I definitely don’t drink a lot because I hate the trek back to the rest rooms. It wasn’t going to be a hot sun so I didn’t need my beach umbrella. All in all for me it was ‘beach light’. I offered to drive and went to pick up Pam. Of course I was in the convertible and of course the top was down. Is there another way to go down the shore? No. We posed in the car so her husband could snap pictures of us. If there is no photo, it didn’t happen. I guess for ME, if there is no blog post, it didn’t happen. *grin*

View to NYC skyline

View north to NYC skyline. Too hazy for a clear picture.

There was no trouble getting down to Sandy Hook (Gateway National Recreation Area). There is a fee per car to get in, but I had packed my AARP card in case that would get me a discount. My husband has the National Parks card, but he wasn’t with us and it is not transferable. Pam has one too, but she didn’t bring it. When I asked the gate guard if AARP got me a discount he sadly informed us that it did not. But, he said, given that it’s the last week of the season, and given that I bend the rules sometimes, I’ll let you in for the discounted price. Yes!!! Lucky again! We thanked him, paid up, and headed up the hook. As you may have noticed about me, I have my “usual routine” of things I do and places I go. ๐Ÿ™‚ We ALWAYS park at parking lot E. The parking lot entrances were a little different than I recalled, which tends to happen every season. There is sand and dunes on both sides of the road. Winter storms move the landscape regularly. We got down to E and – IT WAS CLOSED!!!! That was unexpected. We discussed turning around to go back to D or heading onward towards the North Beach and Fort Hancock. Northward it was!

I’ve been to the North Beach once, a few years ago, with my niece. It didn’t work for me. It was too far from the parking lot and the beach was too narrow. Look, a bad day at the beach is better than a good day most anywhere else, so if all there is is the North Beach, go. This will sound foolish but we couldn’t find the parking lot for the North Beach. I think, in hindsight, I know where it was, but given my lackluster view of that beach anyway, and the fact that we were having fun simply driving on the hook, we kept going to Fort Hancock.

more ocean

You can never have too much ocean gazing

Fort Hancock is a decommissioned army base. Stealing from the Wikipedia entry I can tell you that:

The Sandy Hook area was first fortified as part of the third system of US fortifications. Construction on the Fort at Sandy Hook began in 1857 and ceased in 1867, with the fort serviceable though largely incomplete.

The initial design of the fort was by then-Captain Robert E. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The lighthouse at Sandy Hook is the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. It was originally 500 feet from the water, but given shifting sands over time, it’s now about 1.5 miles from the tip.

Many years ago my husband (who is a structural engineer) was working on a project that involved rehabilitating the old army barracks and buildings for commercial use. I don’t think anything came of that particular project but as Pam and I cruised through Fort Hancock, we saw a renovated building listed for rent. It was a home, not a commercial building. I would LOVE to get inside there and see what they have done. It would be so cool to live there – during the day. I’d be creeped out completely at night, to be there all alone. The Marine Academy of Science and Technology is there, but it’s not a boarding school. If you click through on the Gateway National link above, you can see that they are now accepting Requests for Proposals “to lease multiple historic buildings for any compatible use of historic buildings, (such as residential, lodging, or business use related to residential or lodging use),commercial use, or nonprofit within Fort Hancock”. How fantastic would that BE, to live/work at Sandy Hook? Oh, if I only had money to invest and an idea to propose.

New beach blanket, traditional red bag

Brand new beach blanket; years old traditional red bag; hidden tag alongs

I do actually have an idea to propose. Many years ago I invented something that every beach goer needs. Pam reminded me of this after we went back to Parking Lot D, trudged to OUR spot on the shore, and set up our chairs, blanket and her umbrella. This year I’ve been hearing a lot on the news about a NJ congressman who wants to propose some legislation or law or something to protect beach goers from fly-away beach umbrellas. I believe it was last year a woman was impaled and died from a fly-away umbrella, so this is a real issue. I don’t believe, however, that passing laws will address the situation. I “invented” my own umbrella anchoring system using just what I found in my car one windy, beach-going day. I had plastic bags and rope. I combined that with the plentiful beach sand and MY beach umbrellas do NOT fly away. Pam and I amused ourselves by designing the retail version of my system. *grin* Anyone out there with an entrepreneurial spirit want to help me copyright my system???

Seagull Lord of All It Sees

Lord of All It Sees

The other “problem” at the beach are the brazen seagulls. Like the deer in my hometown, which now roam the streets in gangs during the daylight hours, terrorizing the local gardeners and car parkers alike, the seagulls down the shore have no fear. They’d walk right up to our blanket. One of them pecked at my sandal. I guess birds don’t rely on smell, but only sight to determine what to eat. Two of them were pecking at my plastic bag filled with sand. As long as they keep their distance from me (and even clapping my hands at them was insufficient for some) and don’t defecate on me or my things, I do like to watch them swoop and soar and love the sound of their cries.

View of Causeway from mainland to Sandy Hook

View south to causeway, which you can see up close in the Moby’s pictures

We never made it into the water, although we saw many children playing in the waves. We walked down and stuck our toes in, and that was sufficient. ๐Ÿ™‚ The sun had come out and we were perfectly comfortable with the breeze off the water. We were close enough that we’d get the occasional sea spray as well. I never even took off my shirt and shorts, finally remembering to apply sunscreen after we’d been sitting for perhaps an hour. My knee felt ‘warm’ and I thought ‘oh oops’. I’m okay. I definitely got color but I’m not burned. I spent nearly all my time in my chair. I got to “test” my new beach blanket when Pam took a walk along the water. A little before 5 pm the breeze picked up and the sun had lowered over the bay sufficiently that it was getting more cold than cool. We’d had a good 6 hours down there so we agreed that we could pack up and head home.

I took Pam for quick cruise of the restaurants on the other side of the river. She said that she and her husband would be up for trying out the restaurant my husband and I scoped out when we were down at Moby’s the other weekend. Yay!! Another dinner down the shore if we can get compatible schedules! In the meantime, I brought a little ocean to share with you.


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