Well, we’re back.
The floor of our truck has been relegated to a cemetery of fossilized French fries, but we survived the 1,200-mile round-trip voyage to New Jersey. (The trek was surprisingly stress-free, thanks in part to this post.) Not one meltdown was suffered by either Thing One or Thing Two, not one expletive was stifled by Scott or me, and nary an item (a sock, teething toy, my sanity) was lost.
I’d say this trip was a success.
While I went into this afraid of what the road trip might bring, I knew that when we got there, we’d have a blast. Because Scott is from Jersey – born and bred – I have since adopted the state as my second home and truly love it there. And here are 10 of the reasons why:
1. The Jersey Shore
Boardwalks, salt water taffy, the Atlantic Ocean: What’s not to like about this state treasure? My favorite spots in the summer include Point Pleasant, Long Branch, and Wildwood. It was too cold last week, however, to don swimwear, pack a cooler, and make a day of it. But I still needed my fix and Scotty had never seen the ocean in person before, so we stopped at the shore in Asbury Park because it is a stone’s throw from Freehold. We parked between the tribute to Tillie and The Stone Pony, the bar where Springsteen got his start, and Scotty and I played on the jungle gym, right there on the beach.
My devotion to Wawa hinges on this: A 20-ounce coffee for $1.79. And not just regular and decaf coffee, either – I’m talking pure Kona, Caramel, Hazelnut, Columbian, and other delectable flavors – and all the trimmings you could possibly want: Splenda, reduced fat half-and-half, you name it. Even their iced coffee (pictured) is The Bomb. Wawa, I bow to thee.
3. No pumping gas for drivers
Drivers cannot pump their own gas in New Jersey. It’s state law. So while us Michiganders are sweating like a whore in church to fill up our tanks in the summertime, or risking the loss of a digit from frostbite to do the same in the winter, Jersey folk sit idly by in the comfort of their automobiles while their tanks are filled by a gas station attendant. Because, again, it’s the law. Um, excuse me, elected officials here in Michigan, are you reading this?
4. The Radisson Hotel in Freehold
We needed a crib for Kennedy, so we notified the front desk and they delivered one ASAP. Then we needed a microwave to make Scotty’s macaroni and cheese, and, again, the staff was Johnny on the Spot. Their room service is awesome, as is the complimentary fresh lemon water in the lobby. (Unfortunately, there was nothing the hotel could do to keep Scotty from kneeing me in the back at night while I slept, however.)
5. No sales tax on clothes
For this very reason, I waited until we arrived in Jersey so that I could stock up on all the kids’ essentials: undershirts, socks, pajamas, etc. at the Carter’s store inside the Jersey Shore Premium outlets in Tinton Falls. With stores like Brooks Brothers, Theory, and Columbia, I could have easily blown a whole day – or seven – at that outlet. No sales tax on clothes: What a glorious concept. Oh, and again, Michigan elected officials, are you reading this?
6. iPlay America Indoor Theme Park
This is the childhood equivalent to a clothing outlet inside a state with no sales tax on clothes. With amusement rides, a bowling alley, bumper cars, and a ginormous jungle gym all under one roof, Scotty let off so much steam with his cousins that I burned calories just watching him. (In the photos above with the nets, that's Scotty and his awesome big cousin, Jordan, in the jungle gym.) It’s a good thing he was dog tired when we left, otherwise Scott and I would have had to drag him out in a straightjacket. (We went on Good Friday – when the place was teeming with kids – and it was still tolerable for us parents.)
7. The eats
Authentic pizza pie from Trevi’s, Stefano’s, or Federici’s. A burger and waffle fries from Court Jester. A submarine sandwich from Sorrento’s: You simply can’t find this kind of heaven on a plate anywhere else.
8. The treats
Jersey Freeze is how soft serve ice cream was meant to taste. My go-to is a small cup of vanilla with cookie dough, rainbow sprinkles, and whipped cream. Yeah, you could say I am obsessed. And then there’s Old Monmouth Candies, which houses every confection imaginable. Ever have espresso peanut brittle? Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.
9. The People
Some people characterize New Jerseyans as rude and mean. I’ve also heard that they are about big hair, big boobs, and Bon Jovi. My take is that they are just plain real. Ironically, while reading an US Weekly on the drive to Jersey, I read a quote about Jersey folk by one of their own, Wendy Williams. I can’t remember the quote verbatim, but she said something to the effect that people from New Jersey are messy – “but in a good way.” I take her comment to mean that they are no-holds-barred and let it all hang out. What you see is what you get. People in Jersey may not have a filter, but they do have a heart. And, in that regard, there’s nothing bad about that. (And oh my Gawd, how I love their accent!)
10. My man
On September 27, 1968 in the shore town of Neptune, New Jersey, Scott Conover was born. He was a precocious little boy, creating make-shift science experiments out of mouthwash, shampoo, and pennies. He would go on to graduate from Purdue University and, later, play in the NFL. But his greatest accomplishment would come in the form of a son and daughter. Simply put, if it weren’t for him, there would be no us. Here we are at a Jersey State Park on the day before Easter:
Thanks for the memories, New Jersey!
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