This weekend my Dad joined me for a small road trip down to the Jersey Shore. My father is a minister, and when I was a child, we would often be on the road, as he visited church members across much of New Jersey. I think those experiences gave me my love of driving, which has carried over to today. When Dad would drive me around back then, he would often explain what he was doing, instilling in me not only the sense that driving was fun and a cool skill, but also the weighty responsibility of driving safely. Nowadays, Dad enjoys letting me be the chauffeur, so after work on Friday I picked him up and we jumped on the freeway and headed south.
First stop, Menz Restaurant in Wildwood, New Jersey. Long a favorite of my family, Menz, which opened in 1977, is known for its seafood (I’d highly recommend the crab cakes) and fun atmosphere. The family-owned and operated restaurant started off as a produce stand in the late 1920s, and has evolved into a veritable institution of South Jersey. One of the coolest events is the “Haunted Dining” that happens in October of every year, as part of the restaurant is decorated as a haunted house, where you can sit, enjoy your meal, and periodically be scared by ghosts, goblins, and witches. Last year during Haunted Dining, we had a severed hand (made of plastic, I assure you) show up in our bread basket. It’s a good time!
Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate with my Dad’s and my plans for the weekend. However, we decided to make the best of an ugly day and took a ride to Sunset Beach in Cape May, New Jersey, to see one of the local attractions: the wreck of the SS Atlantus. Launched in 1918, the SS Atlantus was built during World War I as a transport ship. In appearance, it does not seem very different from many other transports of the era, until you learn what material was used to build the ship: concrete. Yes, you read that correctly. The ship was made of concrete. And it floated. Mostly.
Owing to steel shortages during the war, the US military began seeking alternate materials for building ships, and 12 ferrocement (reinforced concrete) ships were ordered. The Atlantus was finished after the war, but did see service for two years before being retired in 1920. The ship was going to be used to construct a ferry dock in Cape May, but it broke its moorings and ended up running aground off Sunset Beach. It was unable to be freed, and has remained in place since 1926 (via Wikipedia)
If you are interested in learning more details of the story of this questionable engineering decision, this article from Weird N.J. provides further information. Dad and I remarked that we see less and less of the ship each time we visit, and the continuous erosion of the vessel from the waves means that someday, the ship will be completely underwater.
Our curiosity satisfied, we headed into Cape May to do some shopping and grab an early dinner before beginning the drive back. While we both would have enjoyed another day at the shore, my Dad is a minister, so he had to return home to be ready for church tomorrow. After two days of rain and wind, we had a pleasant drive home, as the wet weather ended and the sun managed to break through the clouds.
While the weather did not cooperate, I was still very happy to spend the time with my Dad. It was also the most time he had spent in the Accord, and he remarked that it was a comfortable, sporty car, and was very well equipped for extended time on the road. I have already recommended Cape May, New Jersey in a previous post, but should you find yourself at the shore, do yourself a favor and stop by Sunset Beach to check out the wreck of the Atlantus, climb the Cape May Lighthouse, pick up some Cape May diamonds from the beach, and watch the sun go down beneath the waves.
‘Til Next Time.