Driving the Jersey Shore
The drive to the shore should have been an hour and a half but we lost time when a dude ran into Sully’s rear at a yield sign. I’m thankful for the spare tire, it’s the second time it saves us from more damage. But still, this time the chrome bumper has been pushed in. In the US when there’s a car accident, even like this minor incident, the cops have to be called. So we waited for the troopers to come, then we gave them explanations and credentials for their police report. The guy got ticketed for “careless driving”. He was nice, it was his mom’s car, he called his insurance which I talked with and they will deal with the issue. Hopefully, this won’t raise our premium like the cop told us, even if we’re not faulty.
I thought this was painful to have the troopers coming for such a small deal, but that’s exactly what should be done in France too. This is actually the most critical instance when someone should get a ticket: when it leads to an accident.
We start our trip on the Jersey shore at the south tip of it, in Cape May. The west town has a nice state park with a lighthouse, a few ponds and a bunker on the beach. The town itself has a collection of 600 Victorian houses.
Further north, Wildwood is the first Jersey shore craziness we witness. The long boardwalk is packed with shops and food stalls and several piers with theme parks adjoining it. It’s the occasion to taste the funnel cake, which is actually a Pennsylvania speciality, and it tastes quite like our “bugnes”.
Another day, another boardwalk. This time in Ocean city, a smaller version of Wildwood. The speciality there is the mini golf and we try out “Congo Falls” with its three different courses. The decors are great, the “Lost City” course is kind of an Indiana Jones theme with a few scary noises that made me jump while I was trying to focus. The holes are far from impressive, no jumps or tunnels… I lost, 55 to 44.
We were really hesitant but we made a short stop in the famous Atlantic City, and I’m glad we did. The place is completely run down, a mess of abandoned casinos and empty lots, it’s totally weird. It seems to be a resort for poor people now, who ironically gamble their savings in the surviving casinos. Atlantic was born a resort around 1870 and it boomed in the 20s. Prohibition wasn’t enforced, the availability of alcohol made the place popular. It started declining after WWII, flights to further resorts like Miami or the Bahamas diverted the clientele away. To revitalize the city gambling was made legal in 1976, but it never won the competition with Vegas. As developers planned big on the city again in the early 2000s, the recession made them cancel their plans, shut down or go bankrupt.
We make a big detour to the south of Long Island Beach for some beers at the Hudson House. This hidden dive bar in a residential area is full of noisy locals and arcade games.
It’s Saturday and even if it’s another long drive we head to Seaside Heights for the late evening. As the Lonely Planet describes it: “once darkness falls it becomes a scene of such hedonistic mating rituals that an Evangelical Church has felt the need for a permanent booth on the pier. Packs of young men – caps askew, tatts gleaming – check out packs of young women in micro-dresses as everyone rotates among the string of loud bars”.
Last day on the historic Jersey shore. Yesterday we were wondering why there was people sitting at each beach entrance in Ocean City and we got our answer in Point Pleasant today: the beach isn’t free. Yep, you have to pay to walk in the sand, $9 per person, from 8am to 5pm. Outside those hours access to the beach is prohibited, so you can forget about your morning run or sunset stroll. And the bath house is an extra fee. If there’s no lifeguard, swimming is fully prohibited. That’s Jersey shore! The free resort beaches are only at the south tip in Cape May and Wildwood. In the northern end of the shore, the boardwalk are less built, it’s quieter. In Spring Lake the Victorian houses are massive and the lawns perfectly mowed. In Ocean Grove the Victorian houses are cramped together, it’s cute and I can imagine how it was looking like a century ago. Adjacent to it, Ashbury Park has a similar story to Atlantic City. The resort attracted tourists from New York City and Philadelphia but declined after the war. The remaining buildings give a glimpse of those glorious years.